George Municipal Manager Trevor Botha said the town and beaches of George and surrounds were very busy, which kept lifeguards, tourism, law enforcement and the fire department on their toes – but all within manageable levels.
“We are very pleased with how the peak holiday season played out, with most citizens and holidaymakers giving their cooperation. However, the holiday is not yet over as mainstream schools open on 17 January and our summer holiday action plan continues. We thank the public for their cooperation so far and ask that they continue to do so – their assistance and great attitude is a major help to ensure that everyone has a great time in our wonderful city,” said Mr Botha.
Lifeguards on beaches under George municipal control reported a good season so far with no fatalities and relatively few rescues, none serious. Contributory factors for this include an extensive water safety programme with which George Tourism assisted as well as strict enforcement of no-alcohol on beaches. “Beaches were closed on several occasions due to strong currents and shark sightings, and bathers responded well to calls to leave the surf,” said Protection Services Director Steven Erasmus. Lifeguards also assisted with general first aid and treatment of bluebottle stings.
The George Fire Department responded to 157 calls in the municipal area in December including seven formal houses, 15 informal houses, a building, four vehicles, 41 car accidents and 40 grass fires. Other incidents included removal of snakes and pet rescues. Fatalities included one person in a shack fire and a drowning in a dam in Pacaltsdorp (as reported by NSRI on 8 December 2018).
Law Enforcement reported few alcohol-related issues, which were dealt with effectively and without incident, and fewer cases of illegal presence of dogs on beaches. “Ongoing campaigns to inform the public of alcohol and dog bylaws are proving to be successful as there is a definite decline in such incidents. The only worrying factor remains the illegal igniting of fireworks, which the department intends addressing more extensively in future,” said Mr Erasmus.
The George Traffic Department has seen a major increase in traffic volumes during the past peak holiday season and 32 000 speeding offences recorded since the beginning of December 2017, the most ever speeding fines recorded in the municipal area for this time of year. About 15 000 fines were issued via fixed cameras and 17 000 using mobile cameras. “The increase of speeding offences is mainly attributed to increase of traffic in the region,” said Mr Erasmus.
About 2 000 summonses in regards to roadworthiness and other offenses were issued. The department responded to 54 vehicle accidents and arrested 30 drivers for driving under the influence of alcohol and two for reckless and negligent driving. “George Traffic and Law Enforcement officers maintained good visibility throughout the season and was able to respond to incidents quickly.”
The municipality also made use of the Western Cape Extended Public Works Programme to deploy 50 additional personnel to assist with law enforcement and beach patrol at Victoria Bay, Herolds Bay, Leentjiesklip and Gwaing. “Increased visibility of law enforcement and patrol personnel goes a long way in preventing unruly behaviour and crime, and complements the services our lifeguards and beach staff provide,” said Mr Erasmus.
George Tourism Manager Joan Shaw said tourism activities in the region were well-supported, including the tourism office’s selfie competition in which holidaymakers were encouraged to take pictures on beaches with props provided. “Our beautiful beaches got great exposure this way and we are very happy about the general turnout across the region.”
The Take 5 environmental campaign, which was implemented in cooperation with the George Herald and rotary George, was well received by visitors and locals, and many Wilderness residents got groups of friends or children together to collect plastic off the beaches. “For a first time, we felt it was a great success. We would like to see this project grow in future and create more awareness around the importance of sustainable tourism practices and raise the profile of George as a city for a sustainable future,” said Ms Shaw.