Oil slick ahead

Posted On Thursday, 12 September 2002 10:01 Published by
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The boom days may be over for Mossel Bay
By Ian Fife

Mossel Bay, the gas and oil boomtown on the Garden Route in the Western Cape, is being threatened by a flood of properties for sale.

Petro SA (the Petroleum Oil & Gas Corp of SA), a subsidiary of the Central Energy Fund formed from the merger of Mossgas and Soekor, has signed a lease with V&A Waterfront Properties for 7 000 m² of offices at its Cape Town harbourside office complex, Portswood. If the suspensive conditions of the deal are met, staff could start leaving Mossel Bay before the end of the year.

Unions say about 400 staff are moving from Mossel Bay to Cape Town but the number could be smaller.

To make matters worse, Propnet, Transnet's property arm, is due to launch another tender for a major residential and retail waterfront development at Mossel Bay harbour in a few weeks, after the previous winning tenderer's development plans collapsed.

Mossel Bay's 3 500 properties change hands at a rate of about 200/year. Half the properties are in the historic town centre. Average prices there have risen from R219 000 in 1993 to R461 000 last year, outpacing inflation by about 15% but lagging behind neighbours Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. A two-year supply of 400 properties could send prices plummeting. And additional waterfront homes could worsen the problems.

But Christine van Rensburg, head of local estate agent Choice, says Mossel Bay has known for some time that the people would be moving.

'Some Mossgas staff have been selling their houses and renting to avoid too many properties being dumped on the market at once,' she says. 'Besides, a fair proportion of staff lived in George to be close to English schools, so in a way the storm has already passed.'

Mossel Bay mayor Andre Nel is more concerned about Propnet's tender. 'We warned them that the town could not carry a large commercial waterfront. Unfortunately, the municipality has no say over the harbour,' he says.

But Nel is upbeat about the future of the seaside town. He points out that officials are putting together a long-term strategy to make Mossel Bay more attractive to tourists and investors in holiday homes.

Financial Mail

Publisher: Financial Mail
Source: Financial Mail

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