Thesen Island Home Owners Association

Environmental Accountability

More than 100 rigorous environmental, cultural and historical conditions were demanded by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism in the approval of the Thesen Islands development. One of the conditions of approval was the preparation of an Environmental Management Plan (EMP). The overall goal of the EMP was to guide the re-development of Thesen Island in a manner that would enhance, rather than be of detriment to, the Knysna estuarine environment on a sustainable basis.

The project provided a technical challenge in that, for the first time in South Africa and possibly the world, all salt marsh areas disturbed by the development had to be rehabilitated in such a manner as to ensure ‘no nett loss of salt marsh’. Innovative engineering options were successfully researched and applied resulting in an overall increase in the salt marsh area. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) conducted sophisticated computer modelling to assist in the design and layout of the waterways. The various simulations derived an optimal layout allowing for excellent water circulation with sufficiently low velocities to allow marine life to flourish along the gabion embankments. In fact, contrary to some predictions, there has been an increase in the diversity of fauna and flora inhabiting the gabions with many resident sightings of the famous but endangered Knysna seahorse.

Between 2003 and 2007 Dr Chris Mulder and CMAI architects won numerous awards for the design and development of Thesen Islands. This includes an award received from the International Property Awards for Best Marina Development (South Africa).

In recognition of the scale and complexity of the environmental and other challenges addressed in the construction phase of the development, the South African Institute of Civil Engineering (SAICE) National Award for Technical Excellence in 2005 was presented to Thesen Islands.

Thesen Islands is a Blue Flag Marina

Thesen Islands was officially awarded Blue Flag Marina status on 8 October 2013 for the first time and every year subsequently.

The voluntary application for Blue Flag status needs to be renewed annually to ensure that all the strict environmental criteria are being honoured. As Thesen Islands falls within the Greater Garden Route National Park, we are fortunate to be able to work closely with SANParks, WESSA, Working for the Coast, NSRI and the Knysna Municipality.

The Blue Flag concept originated in France in 1985, when municipalities along the coast were awarded with a flag for their commendable sewage treatment and swimming water quality. Then in 1987, which was nominated the European Year of the Environment, the Blue Flag concept was presented to the European Commission, and the formal programme was initiated. In 2001 it went global.

The Blue Flag symbol is considered by the World Tourism Organisation to be the most recognised and respected eco-label around the globe. It is not achieved easily; there are stringent requirements for the condition of our waters, the way we manage our environment, the level of safety and the services we offer, and the quality of environmental information we provide to our homeowners and the visiting public.

The high international standards set by the Blue Flag association have a tangible effect on property values. Public perception is influenced by quality facilities and good environmental management. This is evidenced by Thesen Islands’ healthy canals and marshes, superior ecosystem and public natural surroundings, functional and well-maintained safety measures, and quality educational information.

In keeping with the Thesen Islands Marina’s Blue Flag status, educational talks by invited environmental experts are held regularly through the year at the Clubhouse. Talks cover an extensive range of topics: water quality of the estuary, ecology of the salt marshes and its marine creatures, sustainable fishing practices, measures being taken to clean our streams and rivers, as well as other research being done by the Knysna Basin Project and SANParks. Homeowners are notified via electronic notices, fliers handed out at the Security Gate and the notice board at the entrance.

Thesen Island Home Owners Association Thesen Island Home Owners Association Thesen Island Home Owners Association