NCC Environmental Services (Pty) Ltd

Assessing the damage and restoring the land at Vergelegen Wine Estate - case study


Courtesy of NCC Environmental Services (Pty) Ltd

NCC was contracted to provide 24 hour fire fighting services for the 29 days that the Vergelegen estate was under threat.

With the support of NCC’s thorough reporting and professional guidance, the insurer awarded the costs of re-setting the Alien Vegetation Clearing Plan.

From February through March 2009 devastating fires swept through the mountains above Somerset West, burning more than 60% of the land forming the historic Vergelegen Wine Estate and threatening the largest private conservation initiative in the Western Cape.

Over the past decade Vergelegen had been working on an ambitious Alien Vegetation Clearing Plan that aimed to clear 2000ha of non-arable land of invasive alien vegetation, and restore the estate’s original fynbos, renosterveld, wetlands and afromontane areas. The blazes stimulated the growth of alien vegetation on significant tracts of previously cleared land, and destroyed indigenous vegetation in areas that had been fully rehabilitated. The clearing plan had to be re-set.

Insurance investigators called for a detailed report on costs and damages. Based on our extensive experience in alien clearing, and understanding of post-fire conservation, NCC was contracted to provide the required environmental assessments, recommendations and costings to re-set the clearing programme.


  • Established the extent of burnt areas by Geo-referencing the fire line, transferring the data into ArcGIS and creating an accurate 3-dimensional map
  • Assessed and re-prioritised the Alien Vegetation Clearing Plan to incorporate the effects of the fire. Satellite imagery and field assessments were used to identify burnt and surviving alien plant species, densities and size classes, and establish the progress of the original clearing programme. The information was captured in ArcGIS and used to provide costings for the revised clearing plan.
  • Created a predictive erodibility model to identify potential erosion hotspots developed as a result of the fire
  • Compiled a reference manual on best practice guidelines for alien vegetation clearing, erosion management and rehabilitation
  • Developed a web-based monitoring programme to allow the land manager to track the process of alien vegetation clearing under the new plan

With the support of NCC’s thorough reporting and professional guidance, the client was able to lodge an insurance claim for a portion of the additional costs to alien clearing. They were awarded the cost difference between their new Alien Vegetation Clearing Plan and the remainder of the original clearing budget.

In our long experience creating and implementing Alien Clearing Plans, this was the first time that an insurer paid out additional costs accrued from a fire event.

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