HISTORY OF HONORARY OFFICERS – Nurturing Conservation Legacies Through Time
Honorary Officers have their traditional roots going back over a century with the early Natal Honorary Fisheries Inspectors who were appointed by the Administrator of Natal in terms of the Natal Fisheries Ordinance, No. 11 of 1916. The Officers policed the Natal Rivers and the public dams in respect of fishing licenses and daily bag limits.
The Natal Parks, Game and Fish Preservation Board (Board) was established in 1947 in terms of Natal Nature Conservation Ordinance, No 35 of 1947 as the Natal Province’s nature conservation authority.
The Honorary Fisheries Inspectors continued their work augmenting the work of the new conservation authority and the small staff establishment in the inland waters at the time. The Board also appointed Honorary Sea Fisheries Officers to assist the work of the staff in its coastal mandate and responsibilities early in the 1960s. By the mid-1960s, the Fisheries Officers became Honorary Officers.
The value of the Honorary Inspectors was then recognised when the Board revised the Natal Nature Conservation Ordinance, No 35 or 1947. The Natal Nature Conservation Ordinance, No 15 of 1974, gave the Board authority to appoint HOs to assist it in its mandate.
The HOs generally operated in discreet groups throughout the Province without a central committee. The groups worked directly with the reserve staff, district conservation officers and the staff working in the coastal areas.
Once a year, a general meeting of all HOs was arranged by the Natal Parks Board in Head Office and it was chaired on a rotational basis by one of the Deputy Directors of each of the major regions.
At one such general meeting in 1995, the HOs requested a more structured and co-ordinated working relationship with the Natal Parks Board staff. The basis of the request was the Honorary Officer Groups were working independently of each other each with the staff in their area of operation. In addition, the HOs also needed to have more liaisons with the Board’s executive and senior management staff to strengthen the relationship. These requests were accepted.
In 1996, the Honorary Officer Groups restructured themselves with a central committee (or executive), with regional committees in the west, east, Zululand and the coastal regions adopting the regional setup of the Natal Parks Board. The Honorary Officers evolved into the structured voluntary non-government organisation it is today.
When the Department of Forestry devolved the responsibilities of the state proclaimed indigenous forests, and these forests were transferred to the Provincial Nature Conservation Authorities in the 1980s, the Honorary Forest Officers in the Natal Province were incorporated into the Honorary Officers. It is understood that the Honorary Forest Officers were vested with similar powers of the Forestry Officers.
The Honorary Officers has continued in its early ethos as a voluntary organisation that operates under the auspices of the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. There are about 45 Honorary Officer Groups with some 700 HOs with an extremely wide background of skills and expertise which they use in various ways to support the staff in their work and help to lessen the financial burden on Ezemvelo by fund raising to undertake specific projects. The groups are all managed under a central constitution and reports to a Conservation Manager and/or District Conservation Officer. The annual programme for the year is developed with the staff and approved by them. Once approved, the HOs work on the projects, and raise funds or arrange for donated equipment and materials where required, to complete the projects.
The HOs are required to abide by the provisions set out in the relevant legislation, the HO constitution and HO Standard Operational Procedure Manual (SOP)