Green infrastructure investments and planning

In the GCR, a number of foundations have been laid for investment in the region’s ecological assets. There is a strong promotion of natural resource protection, with various provincial and municipal policies focusing on conservation targets to preserve indigenous or naturally occurring vegetation. Many of these targets are motivated by the eco-tourism benefits of conservation programmes economic benefits and development. Strategic dialogues are also recognising that investments in ecological assets, specifically trees and certain plants and shrubs, can assist in mitigating the adverse consequences of, inter alia, heavy winds, airborne dust and various forms of pollution. Where planning processes are incorporating ecosystems services into mainstream planning, there is often an explicit focus on community benefits of greening investments, including reducing people's vulnerability to environmental stress and redressing ecological disparities inherited from apartheid. Despite an institutional openness to such investments, new strategic commitments in trees, community gardens and landscaping to accompany new developments are challenged by fiscal priorities which often favour short-term economic multipliers such as large residential developments from which municipalities can accrue tax benefits.

Some municipalities are seeing development pressures as opportunities to incorporate landscaping and greening, and it is significant to observe collaborative efforts between private developers and government, which reflect a broader political space to think differently about how investments in ecological assets can be financed and sustained through creative service delivery arrangements.