Our Team

We are the custodians of natural landscapes that are invaluable in terms of biodiversity, right at Africa’s southernmost tip.


And all our members are committed to conserving and protecting our landscapes and water networks.



The Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area is a voluntary association, overseen by an Executive Committee, and coordinated and managed by a dedicated team of conservationists.

Executive Committee

Chair – Dirk Human

Dirk is the owner and founder of the Black Oystercatcher Wines. Dirk’s family has farmed in the region for four generations, and he has served as the Chair since the launch of the NWSMA. He not only brings business-savvy to the NWSMA, but also a love for the Overberg and its wildlife.

Treasurer – Michael van Breda 

Michael is a Chartered Accountant by trade – and so he combines his farming experience with his CA background in the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area. Michael’s family has farmed on the Agulhas Plain for many generations, with Michael’s father a key instigator of the conservation movement on the Plain.

Member – Francis Pratt

Francis became an Executive Board member in 2020. After studying Agriculture at Stellenbosch University (and an apprenticeship in Australia), he farmed on the family farm near Swellendam. In the early 1990s Francis came to the Elim area – after falling in love with the land and the sea here. He bought the farm Moddervlei, and not only continues grain farming, but also started The Berrio wine.

Member – Mick D’Alton

Mick is one of the founding members of the NWSMA. He has extensive conservation knowledge, combined with farming experience. For years Mick worked to raise awareness of the Agulhas Plain, and the need to conserve it. He won the CAPE Fynbos Conservation Award in 2010 – one of the first landowners to win this award.

Member – Jurie Giliomee

Jurie joined the Executive Board in 2020. He and his father, Liohan (a former Board member) farm on Vlooikraal, and also own parcels of land across the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area. This includes natural land containing Critically Endangered fynbos species – which the Giliomee family care deeply about, and work hard to protect. The family are also important grain farmers in the area.

Our Vision

To create a sustainable ecology, which ensures the protection of the Nuwejaars Wetland Ecosystem, enhances the heritage and culture of the sub-region, generates benefit for all stakeholders, helps meet social and environmental requirements, and encourages community lifestyles compatible with environmental sustainability.

Project Manager


Ross Kettles

Ross has an exciting challenge ahead of him: To design and implement projects to support the Nuwejaars Wetlands SMA’s focus on sustainability. And to develop projects that will help to promote the area – including environmental education opportunities for children. Ross has the right experience for the job: He was previously Warden at the Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve in Hoedspruit. Here he was instrumental in expanding the reserve to 27,500 hectares (from 6,200 hectares). And having it proclaimed as a Private Nature Reserve. And before that, he served as Managing Director at the Siyafunda Conservation Initiative and the Makalali Lodge in Hoedspruit. He has a Master’s degree in environmental development from the University of KwaZulu Natal.

Conservation Manager – Game & Veld Management


Eugene Hahndiek

Eugene grew up on provincial nature reserves in the Western and Eastern Cape. He completed a 3 year diploma in Game Ranch Management at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, and has been working in the game industry for about 10 years. He started as a guide at various private nature reserves and has been with the NWSMA since 2013.

Conservation Manager – Planning, Monitoring and Development


Erica Brink

Erica joined the Nuwejaars Wetlands SMA team in January 2017 in a new position as the Conservation Manager for Planning, Monitoring & Development. She previously worked for the City of Cape Town’s Biodiversity Management branch, managing two reserves within the greater False Bay Nature Reserve: Pelican Park and Strandfontein Birding Area. Erica completed her B.Sc (with Honors) at the University of Sussex while travelling and studying in England. She obtained her M.Sc in Biological Sciences from the University of Cape Town in December 2016.

Administration and Financial Manager


Vanessa McKibbin

Vanessa was appointed as Administration and Financial Manager in 2019. She has worked in the corporate environment for the past 28 years, in administrative and logistics roles. However, in an attempt to escape city life, she moved to the Agulhas Plain in December 2018. Now Vanessa wants to use her new position in the Nuwejaars to make a difference (no matter how small, she says), in an environment that cares. She’s inspired by Jane Goodall’s outlook on life: “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.”

Ecosystem Services Team Members:


Denver Engel

Denver, from the town of Elim, has worked with the Nuwejaars Wetlands SMA for many years, in different positions. Between 2013 and 2016, he headed up an invasive alien clearing team in the SMA, clearing invasive through the ABI Alien Clearing Project. He then joined Joey Cloete’s Ecosystem Services team. When Joey retired, Denver was appointed the team leader, a position he still holds today.


Morné Engel

Morné is from the small town of Elim – a member of the NWSMA, and a culturally rich town. He has been working with the NWSMA since 2009, originally as a member of Joey Cloete’s team (before Joey retired). Today he works with team leader, Denver Engel. 


Bradley George

Bradley is a relatively new member of the Ecosystem Services team, joining Joey Cloete’s team in 2015 (today the team is led by Denver Engel). He grew up on farms around the district. He is also the youngest member of the team.


Nicodemus Moses 

Nicodemus became a key member of the NWSMA’s Ecosystem Services team in early 2019. But he is not new to the area, and has been an integral member of invasive alien clearing teams in the Agulhas Plain, working in the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative-clearing projects. Nicodemus lives in the town of Elim. 

Wetland Rehabilitation and Expansion Team 


Gerty Holtzhausen and her team 

Gerty and her team are responsible for repairing and rehabilitating a Palmiet and Berzillia riparian wetland along the Nuwejaars River. They are employed thanks to the support of WWF South Africa. Gerty and  the team members are from the small town of Bredasdorp. She is no stranger to running her own businesses – having served as an alien clearing contractor since 2005. Since 2017, she has worked at the Nuwejaars Wetlands SMA, with the team of six people taking on the physically-tough task of removing invasive species from rivers and wetlands, from hand-pulling, to the chainsaws required to clear adult trees. For Gerty, this job provides financial security year-round, in an industry that is often dependent on funding availability. She also believes that if you don’t love and appreciate nature, you shouldn’t be doing this job.


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