In perfect equilibrium, the three Ps – people, profit and the planet – would give you sustainable eco-tourism in the sense that all three would benefit from the activities of those involved. But over the last few years it has become apparent that one P has always enjoyed more attention than the other two, and that is profit.
I’m amazed by the many money-making schemes developed and put forward through various organisations. It’s high time that the 4×4 fraternity woke up to the dangers of some of them.
Making money should involve hard work. There are indeed people who make money in the 4×4 industry through their innovation and sustained effort, such as trail owners, instructors and tour operators. The secret to their success is passion, hard work and dedication. On the other hand, ill-conceived schemes veiled in secrecy and aimed at control of industry sectors through regulation will not work.
The months to come could produce some exciting developments. Does the National Off-Road Workgroup (NOW) still have a legal mandate, originally proposed to the then Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, to take its work forward? Will the Association of All Wheel Drive Clubs of SA shake itself out of the doldrums and achieve the much-needed unity it so desperately requires? Or will it simply implode? These are interesting questions that affect every off-roader.
The Department of Environmental Affairs is looking for a simple, sustainable set of guidelines for landowners and users of recreational vehicles that will result in a self-regulatory framework, yet since the NOW process was halted late last year, we have seen nothing.
The good work done in the Western Cape, in the Atlantis dunes, by the group known as Adore has just about solved the problems there, yet they are not acknowledged. Neither was an approach from SAROD to NOW, other than a cursory letter. (SAROD represents the individual recreational driver who is not a club member.)
The writing is on the wall for the 4×4 fraternity. We need to stop the secret society “cloak and dagger” approach and work together towards a common goal of a united 4×4 community that is entirely transparent and does not set out to enrich little groups.
We need to find simple solutions and guidelines that will shape our behaviour in the bush and benefit the local people in the areas where we travel.
And, yes, there are good examples for us to draw on and develop. The next few months are going to be interesting and I hope we will arrive at a stable framework for sustainable off-road vehicle utilisation that benefits all role players.