The Garden Route, similar to other parts of South Africa, continues to illustrate stark contrasts of spatial and economic circumstances. In fact, the haves and the have nots are still living worlds apart, although in many instances, spatially less than a kilometre away from one another. It is for this reason that the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) spearheaded the process of changing, not only the trajectory of the Garden Route economy, but also to build prosperity with equity. At the centre of this vision is a finalised and approved long-term strategy known as the Garden Route Growth and Development Strategy (GDS). This key document has been successfully developed in collaboration with the Western Cape Economic Development Partnership (WCEDP) and was finalised today when the GRDM Council approved it.
According to Executive Manager for Planning and Economic Development at GRDM, Lusanda Menze, “COVID-19 delayed many of the consultative engagements, but this was expected in the formulation of the strategy because such a strategic document has to be consistent with internal resources and external environments”.
“The first stakeholder workshops took place on 29 and 30 October 2019, while the draft Garden Route GDS was presented to all Garden Route Local Government Mayors and Municipal Managers on 11 February 2021,” he said.
Executive Mayor, Ald. Booysen elaborated, the Garden Route GDS encompasses a few objectives, including: “A shared 20-year vision for the regional economy stretching until 2040; how to do things differently; developing a common economic agenda to improve the economic development and system relating to it.”
“What makes this strategy different is that it is intended to be a ‘living strategy’ and a ‘risk-driven strategy’”. Ald. Booysen explained: “By the descriptions, we mean that the implementation, monitoring and evaluation forms part of our collective ongoing learning and ability to adapt, while at the same time the Garden Route GDS requires a collective approach in order to efficiently navigate through challenges and changes.”
The strategy is shaped by the profile and regional priorities of the district, which are divided into themes such as; water-secure future, circular economy, resilient agriculture, sustainable tourism, support for well-being and resilience, sustainable local energy transition and a connected economy. The document is further grounded in several core-principles such as being people-centred; valuing cultures; preserving ecological heritage; approaching change collaboratively; recognising uncertainties of innovation and responsiveness; being conscious of sustainable and resilient factors directly impacting the region; good governance; being mindful of constraints, and open to a changing yet interconnected and interdependent region.
The GDS for the Garden Route articulates the region’s development path. This Garden Route GDS would not have been possible without broad consultation, which greatly assisted the GRDM to build a collective and shared strategy for the Region/District. It is an aspirational strategy, which would need to align to the GRDM five-year Integrated Development Plan (IDP) going forward. This means that the Garden Route GDS frames the IDP and ventures the GRDM’s long-term ambitions, strategies and overarching decisions that will bring to effect that change the region wants to see by 2040.