South African local government managers presently face a formidable range of
challenges. Over and above the management of the local government institutional
transformation processes and associated issues, an equally important management
challenge looms, namely the brownfields phenomena. The problem of brownfields impacts
widely within South African municipal boundaries. Brownfields are defined as follows:
“Abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial and commercial facilities where expansion or
redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination”.
A question that confronts local communities in the 21st century is how to provide needed
economic opportunities while, at the same time, avoiding the environmental degradation
and social inequity that often accompany past models of development. This question is
relevant in all spheres of government but particularly imminent for local government.
Relations between communities and nature are, and have always been, complex. The
socio-physical impact that unsustainable development within municipalities have on
community health and nature, are signals that fundamental problems exist. Brownfields are
to be found within most highly urbanised and industrialised South African municipalities.
By their very nature brownfields are therefore inseparable from issues of social and
economic development. In terms of legislation, South African local governments must submit integrated
development plans that set out the authorities’ envisaged development strategies for the
future. In the event where the above strategies do not reflect a coherent plan for achieving
sustainable development which is set to address the needs of the present communities
without compromising the ability of future communities to meet their own needs, local
government will not be successfully transformed.
What is called for is an integrated environmental management approach amidst the
integrated developmental planning and implementation process. In this paper four
conditions for the redevelopment of brownfields are identified: community involvement
and partnerships, sustainable community development, economic opportunity for business
and a strategic vision for urban redevelopment. Arguments are put forward as to why the
said four conditions are important to attain sustainable brownfield redevelopment, why the
processes of integrated environmental management should be applied in conjunction with
integrated development planning and why local government managers have a key
responsibility in this regard.