The town and beaches of George and surrounds were very busy, which kept several municipal departments on their toes – but all within reasonable levels.
George Municipal Manager Trevor Botha said the shorter holiday season, which ended a week later and started a week sooner in 2018/19, meant overall figures had slightly dropped in comparison to previous years. “We are very pleased with how the peak holiday season played out, with most citizens and holidaymakers giving their cooperation. We thank the public for their support and ask locals and after-season holidaymakers to do so for the remainder of the summer – 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 the six beaches under George municipal control reported a very busy season in which two people drowned (reported by NSRI on 16 and 26 December 2018), six mass rescues (more than one person rescued at the same time), 31 single rescues and 44 help-outs were made.
Beaches were closed on a few occasions due to shark sightings and during the clean-up of the beach after a beached whale had to be euthanised in Wilderness. Protection Services Director Steven Erasmus commended the 80 lifeguards, who were well-prepared, vigilant and helpful. “While the limelight may have fallen on other agencies over the season, these extremely committed individuals were there also, and gave their all. We are extremely proud and grateful for their service.” Lifeguards also assisted with general first aid and treatment of bluebottle stings.
The George Fire Department responded to 134 calls in the municipal area in December including seven at formal houses, 24 at informal houses, two at non-residential buildings, 27 car accidents and 33 grass fires. Other incidents included removal of snakes and pet rescues.
Law Enforcement reported one of the safest festive periods, mostly due to the combined efforts and interaction between municipal Protection Services departments, Western Cape Provincial Traffic, the SAPS, neighbourhood watch groups, EMS Emergency Services, NSRI, Western Cape Forensic Pathology Services, SANParks, Metro Air Support and Rescue Services, SPCA, etc.
“There was a reduction in alcohol-related incidents compared to previous years, and people who came to recreational areas were generally more inclined to enjoy the beach than consuming alcohol. All possible prevention of alcohol use was in place to search, fine, confiscate or deny entry to beaches,” said Mr Erasmus.
A total of 113 litres of alcoholic beverages were confiscated by the municipal Law Enforcement officers, excluding the unknown amount of alcohol that were confiscated by the SAPS, neighbourhood watch groups and SANParks. A large number of fireworks were confiscated from illegal traders in a combined inspection between the SAPS, SPCA and municipal Law Enforcement ahead of New Year’s celebrations.
The Traffic Department reported a busy season in which four people died in three separate vehicle accidents at Herold’s Bay, Thembalethu and Waboomskraal as well as 108 other vehicle accidents across the municipal area. Approximately 28 000 speeding offences were recorded on fixed and mobile speed cameras since December 2018. The department arrested 25 drunken drivers, impounded 18 taxis for various offences, discontinued the use of 22 unroadworthy vehicles, wrote 341 parking tickets and issued 849 summonses.
The municipality also made use of the Western Cape Extended Public Works Programme to deploy additional personnel to assist with law enforcement and beach patrols. “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 local accommodation providers had lower overall occupancy than last year, mostly due to the shorter school holiday period, but reported a good overall festive season.
The second year of the Take 5 environmental programme, which encourages beachgoers to take five pieces of plastic with them when they leave the beach, was a great success. “We are also appreciative of the cleaning teams, who made a real effort to keep our beaches clean and tourist-friendly throughout the season.”
George Tourism also had holiday activations at Herold’s Bay, Victoria Bay, Wilderness Beach as well as the Garden Route Mall – including distribution of tourism products and a ‘spin and win’ competition which was well supported by locals and visitors.
Caption: George Municipality Law Enforcement officers search bags at the entrance to Victoria Bay beach to ensure that no alcohol, firearms or other illegal items are carried into the public area.