Since Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, approved the construction of the Malelane Safari Lodge in the Kruger National Park at the end of August last year, four appellants have registered appeals. A decision on whether the construction of the lodge can go ahead will be announced by the minister on April 26, after the ministry has taken into consideration the appellants’ complaints. The construction of the lodge has been in the pipeline since 2010 but has experienced numerous delays.

Chris Engelbrecht, legal representative for Pestana lodge, says there are technical and other objections against the proposed development. “Our main concerns are the negative impact the proposed park-and-ride facility at the Malelane Gate will have on Pestana Lodge and Leopard Creek Golf Estate, as well as light pollution, sound pollution, access and traffic congestion issues, security and ablution concerns and related matters.”

Michael Wright, Director and Shareholder of Malelane Safari Resort Investments, says the developer has meticulously planned the luxury tented safari lodge development on responsible and sustainable green design principles, mitigating against environmental impacts wherever possible.

Wright claims that the appellants are largely concerned about the competition a professional international operator will have on their own business. “It is anti-competitive behaviour, and the longer they can drag it out, the longer they can preserve their sub-standard businesses.”

Wright says further that the resort’s park and ride was moved, at Pestana's request, to behind the existing staff houses, adjacent the current gate and behind a large grove of massive evergreen trees. “Its impact on the views of homeowners at Leopard Creek will be negligible. Furthermore, to accommodate Leopard Creek, we have undertaken to direct any night-time traffic flow, for game drives and late guest arrivals, along the S121 and then down the H3 at considerable extra time and travel distance, in special consideration of Leopard Creek, to reduce the impact of vehicle lights and sounds on residents across the Crocodile River.”

Wright adds the park and ride is being built specifically to reduce traffic congestion, which is largely caused by day visitors. “We are trying to greatly alleviate that problem and not add to it. In addition, many of our guests will fly into Skukuza Airport and travel down the H3, not even entering at the Malelane Gate.”

This article has been updated since publication.