The not-so-sleepy South Coast

KZN's South Coast is experiencing something of a property revival, shedding its long-held status as a sleepy holiday destination

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The KwaZulu-Natal South Coast has always been known as a slow, sleepy sub-tropical paradise, awash with palm trees and golden beaches. For many years you could wind along an N2 lined with overgrown indigenous trees and the ubiquitous wild bananas. The South Coast was a vacation venue, home to retirees or those who wanted to live in the slow lane.

The old road is still there, but the N2 is now part of the modern KZN road infrastructure that takes you from Durban to Port Shepstone in under two hours. With two airports, King Shaka International Airport in Durban and Margate airport in the heart of the south coast, commuting from Johannesburg, or further afield is all in a day’s work.

Road and air infrastructure is important to the development of the South Coast, as more people and companies are moving out of the congested and high-priced Durban metropole, to the south where land and property prices are still relatively cheap.

Pat Symcox, property specialist and former South African test cricketer predicted a boom in KZN as a direct result of the building of the new King Shaka Airport ahead of the 2010 Soccer World Cup. He says that growth in the South Coast lagged due to the perception by property investors that the area was not easily accessible.

“The government has a range of exciting projects in the pipeline, including extending the runway and other facilities at Margate airport since CemAir flights started to operate from Johannesburg. By creating more facilities at the airport it will be able to accommodate bigger planes, and will be able to accommodate flights from other destinations.”

Above inflation

Dr Andrew Golding, CEO of Pam Golding Property Group (PGPG) also notes that according to the PGPG Index, growth in property prices in KZN, which have been falling behind since the 2007 downturn, have turned around dramatically and are starting to outstrip other regions.

“KwaZulu-Natal is returning to above inflation house price growth and higher than average rental earnings. However what we are starting to see is that the previously lagging KZN house market has the potential to outstrip other regions in 2015. The residential property market looks set to be the most vibrant this year in terms of potential house price growth.”

Golding also attributes the growth in the residential market to interest in the type of lifestyle offerings. He says that the South Coast has seen a demand for primary residential property of up to 30% from Amanzimtoti (27ks from Durban) to Scottburgh and Umtentweni, near Port Shepstone.

Its closeness Durban’s hub makes Amanzimtoti a prime residential area, and house prices are comparable to other coastal regions where a two-bedroom, two bathroom air-conditioned apartment and garage, with access to a communal pool in a security complex can cost in the region of R4 million. However, there are apartments that are good value for money situated near Amanzimtoti’s main beach, where a two bedroom, one bathroom flat is on the market for R599 000 and land for residential properties start from R200 000 upwards.

Panoramic views

Further south, in Port Shepstone a four bedroom, one bathroom apartment on the beachfront is on the market for R495 000 and a luxury seven-bedroom, six bathroom house with panoramic views of the sea and coastline is available for a mere R2,5 million.

Of course prices vary, from town to town but a judicious investor can still find stands for as little as R99 000 in Ramsgate, to a sub-divisible stand with beach access at Oslo beach for R1,6 million.

Myles Wakefield, CEO of Wakefield’s Real Estate says there are still opportunities for investors to buy reasonably priced second homes along the 150 kilometre stretch of coastline that will not only give them a holiday by the sea, but will also give them a second income as a holiday rental with its year-round warm climate.

“Confidence in the marketplace has seen the emergence of new developments, which are selling quite well. During the past decade a number of new developments have been built in the bigger growth nodes of Margate, Ramsgate, Shelly Beach and Uvongo.”

Wakefield remarks that investors have started to buy apartments with a view of entering the rental market, as there has been a swing away from holiday and short term rentals to longer term rentals of six to 12 months. “The coastal lifestyle will continue to appeal for a long time and as a result the South Coast will always flourish.”

With the growth of long-term residential owners there has also been a growth of large shopping malls representing major retailers in Scottburgh, Shelly Beach and Margate.

The region falls under the Ugu District Municipality and it has major plans for further development says Justin Mackrory CEO of Ugu South Coast Tourism, a major role-player in the region’s plans for developing the economy. “The South Coast is the most visited non-metropolitan destination in KZN and some of the projects in the planning and design stage include Music City in Hibberdene and the R120 million Amazon Alley Water Park near Pennington.”

Music City

The proposed construction of the R35 billion Music City in Hibberdene (at the Spray Rock Harbour and Wellness Centre) includes a convention centre, a marina, several piers into the sea and a tourist, residential and commercial property component.

MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Mike Mabuyakhulu describes it as a ‘Caribbean-style’ development. “The proposed development would be built in three phases and the plan is that the ‘destination resort’ will be double the size of Sun City on completion and could provide thousands of permanent jobs.”

The Amazon Alley Water Park is described as being the biggest water park in South Africa once it is built. The R120 million development is due to start in January 2016, and developer Peter Meyer says it is his ‘dream project’ after spending many years on caravan holidays in nearby Scottburgh.

His dream development will also include 80 caravan sites, a lodge, function venues and restaurants, tube slides, wave riders and 23 family slides, as well as a play park and canopy tours.

Meyer’s company is also in negotiations with Durban Metrorail to have a station next to Amazon Alley with ample parking for 500 vehicles.

Michelle Harris, proprietor of Seeff Mid-South Coast who sold the 21 hectare farm known as Ocean View, as well as another piece of land adjoining it says the development will add great value to the South Coast area. “It is one of the most beautiful pieces of land on our coastline, with about 2 000 Milkwood trees that are protected from the sea by dunes on the beach side where Peter Meyer is planning the caravan park. It will bring in visitors and tourists from all over, which in turn will boost our property market and local businesses.”

A major development for motor sports is the state-of-the-art race track that opened in March. The Dezzi South Coast Raceway near Port Shepstone has a 2, 5 kilometre circuit, the only track in KZN to be approved by Motorsport South Africa.

It was built on an old airfield and overlooks the still pristine coastline. Owners Des and Louise Gutzeit initially started with a single tarred runway for car testing, which later grew to include two drift circuits. The newly completed stretch of high-speed corners has joined the two drift tracks to form the full circuit. The raceway is the only permanent drag racing facility in KZN, and Mackrory comments that from a tourism perspective, the raceway is a unique product with a wide appeal, which can translate into a substantial increase in the number of visitors and spend from around South Africa and the world.

There are also plans by government to develop an aerotropolis in KZN by integrating upgraded regional airports, including Margate airport with King Shaka Airport.

This is good news for Ugu District as its main economy after tourism and agriculture is a manufacturing sector around Port Shepstone centred on clothing and textiles, wood and metal manufacturing and food and beverage production.

Incubation programmes

Mabuyakhulu says the aerotropolis will include a perishable goods hub for processing of perishable foods for export to its BRICS partners where there is a growing market. He explains that the plan is to give opportunities to SMMEs through incubation programmes to enable them to grow their businesses into profitable entities.

Another growth point for the South Coast is the film industry and Mabuyakhulu urges local municipalities to take advantage of the ‘R12-billion pie’ by easing red tape for local and international film companies. Several international productions have already been filmed near the Wild Coast Sun outside Port Edward, including Blood Diamond, a sequel to Blue Crush, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Further large developments are expected as major sugar companies in the area plan to divest some of their land investments into residential and commercial space.

According to Ugu District Municipality there are plans to build mixed use developments of over 10 000 new residential units, including schools, hospitals and industrial and commercial properties around Scottburgh. The first mixed use development in Scottburgh is expected to provide 90 to 100 upmarket residential units close to the main beach. Integrated into the development will be a retail development of approximately 8 000m2.

There are also plans afoot to build affordable housing in South Port, Izotosha and Murchison, as well as assisting rural housing projects near Hibberdene, Port Shepstone, Izingolweni and Pennington.

Cathy Dippnall

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