INVASIVE ALIEN PLANTS AND THE PROPERTY OWNER

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On 1st August 2014, the Minister of Environmental Affairs published the Alien and Invasive Species Regulations which come into effect on 1st October 2014.  A list of Alien Invasive Species was also published and the list can be found at http://www.invasives.org.za/legislation.html.

A total of 559 alien species are listed as invasive in four different categories, and a further 560 species listed as prohibited and may not be introduced into the country.  The species relate to fauna and flora.

The main aim of the legislation is prevent more alien invasive species coming into South Africa and the new regulations are intended to halt the spread of potentially devastating species.  Invasive Alien Plants (IAPS) are a major threat to biodiversity, human livelihoods and economic development.  Many IAPS are products of unwise and unintentional plant introductions, however if new invasions are discovered before they are well established, eradication is possible and management costs are greatly reduced.

The second main focus is on the early detection of and the rapid response to emerging invasive species.  These are listed in category 1a and require immediate control by all land owners.

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The third main focus is to address the established invasive species that are most harmful and destructive and these are listed in category 1b.

The fines and penalties for non-compliance with the regulations can attract a fine not exceeding R10 million or imprisonment not exceeding 10 years. However, from the regulations, it would appear that the idea is to obtain co-operation and the fines and penalties will only become applicable if the landowner refuses an authorised official from the Department to enter onto the land to monitor, assist or implement the combating; control or eradication of the species, or flatly refuses to comply with the regulations after due notice.

How will the regulations impact upon the seller of a property?

In terms of Regulation 29:

1. If a permit holder sells the property on which an alien listed invasive species is under the permit holder’s control, the new owner of such property must apply for a permit in terms of the Act.

2. The seller of any immovable property must, prior to the conclusion of the relevant sale agreement, notify the purchaser of that property in writing of the presence of listed invasive species on the property.

The purpose behind the regulations is to ensure that coherent control programmes are run and maintained.

Most of us would not know a Cardiospermum grandiflorum (balloon vine which is a Category 1b species) from a Cardiospermum halicacabum (lesser balloon vine – Category 3) unless we are told.  So needless to say, if the seller is unaware of the presence of a listed invasive species, then the regulation cannot be complied with and it would not be right for a purchaser who subsequently becomes aware of the invasive alien, to hold the seller responsible after sale of the property.

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For this reason we advise that reference to plants and vegetation be included in the acknowledgement by the purchaser that he has acquainted himself fully with the extent and nature of the property he is buying and that he accepts it as such.

The estate agent should request Sellers to confirm in writing whether they are aware of, or hold any permits in respect of any alien invasive species located on the property. If the Seller advises being aware of any alien species, or confirms that he holds a permit, then the estate agent can give a copy of this confirmation to a prospective purchaser who submits an offer on the property, in which event the offer should include an acknowledgment by the Purchaser to the effect that the Purchaser has been advised of the invasive species presence on the property.

Article obtained from http://esilaw.co.za/invasive-alien-plants-property-owner/

Resources:  “Invasive alien plants and the property owner” written by Maria Davey from Meumann White Attorneys (shortened article) and Miltons Matsemela Newsflash (Invasive Species) – October 2014