So, how many people live in Ballito?
The visitors want to know what time the dolphins come past and the locals want to know how much their town has grown.
The answers to both questions are elusive but lots of people still want to know, from those planning new businesses to estate agents and supermarket operators.
KwaDukuza is touted to be the fastest growing municipality in the country, and it certainly feels that way, but who’s counting?
Apart from high and low seasons, over the past ten years it feels as though the population has been leaping ahead month by month.
I used to know a lot of people around town but there are so many new faces these days it’s bewildering. There are a lot more job opportunities, more shopping centres and shops and a lot of room for service businesses.
What has really changed is that many of the new people in town are young and full of energy, which is a real sign of strong growth. Anyone who has been on a school run will tell you the traffic is impossible.
The schools are jam-packed and another is on the way.
Anyhow, the latest person to pose the question was estate agent Allana Smith, so my project for the last fortnight has been trying to find a more definitive answer than sticking a finger in the air.
I approached it from several different angles: I looked at the Census, spoke to letting agents, bulk service suppliers and the gated estates.
I thought the estates could be a problem – they’re sort of black holes that suck in thousands of people who commute or live their lives mostly behind high fences. How do they affect the figures?
To many businesspeople, when one talks of Ballito these days one means greater Ballito – that is Ballito, Salt Rock, Shakaskraal and Shakashead, plus the gated estates from Palm Lakes to Zimbali.
The population forms the buying public that all local businesses depend on in one way or another, for customers, service, support and staff. Starting with Census 2011, the population of KwaDukuza was 231 000.
Population growth rate has been about 1% p a, which brings that total to about 248 500.
The population of the nine municipal wards that make up the Greater Ballito area – Palm Lakes to Zimbali – was 68 700 in 2011, so today should be about 74 000. Then I crosschecked with the available bulk supply stats, starting with electricity.
The municipality says there are 48 000 metered connections in the whole of KDM and 14 384 in the southern region, being 9 470 conventional meters and 4 914 prepaid.
The figures are skewed by the estates and sectional title complexes, where there is often only one connection point, but working from the updated census figures that should work out to 5.2 persons per connection, giving a total of about 74 800 people.
Another crosscheck is water supply. Sembcorp Siza Water, whose area of supply is roughly the same as electricity for the southern region, estimates a permanent pollution of 70 000 for working purposes, doubling to 140 000 in high season. I think one can safely say that the population of the Dolphin Coast is in the region of 70-75 000.
But often people want to know how many people live on the seaward side of the N2, as that is where the bulk of holiday traffic is.
The larger gated estates kindly supplied their low and high season estimates.
The low season figures are included in the Census and confirmed by the bulk supply figures, but they have grown hugely since 2011 and show how many people live there now.
The highest numbers of permanent dwellers and holiday visitors are, unsurprisingly, in Simbithi and Zimbali:
This is where it started to get complicated. British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli said:
“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
But what can a poor boy do? The only resource available are the ward figures, which I projected forward to 2018 and factored in the expanded estates.
That exercise spits out an answer of 28 500 on the seaward side of the N2, more or less. So, ta-da!
The exercise indicates that the permanent population of greater Ballito is about 70-75 000 and the traditional Ballito / Salt Rock holiday area to be about 30 000.
Maybe a little higher at 35 000 if one takes into account the growth outside of the estates.
Second question: how many visitors do we get in December?
For insight into this I turned to somebody with hands-on experience, Inus van Schalkwyk of Cyberview Letting. He went to a great deal of trouble to supply me with a breakdown of the lettable units.
He calculated that there are about 5 000 lettable units, making capacity for 30 000 visitors. As people stay on average 7 – 10 days those units can be turned over twice, giving a total of 60 000 people.
The population of the coastal strip would then be about 90-100 000 in season by that calculation, which is slightly at odds with Siza’s added capacity for 140 000.
Granted there will be a lot of people at home for the holidays on the west of the N2 as well, plus day visitors from Durban and inland.
So I feel on shaky ground about that figure, other than to say it could be anything from 90 to 140 000.
At 90 000 it confirms the long-held belief that the population trebles in high season.
I have slaved over a hot calculator for two weeks and have progressed in stages from ignorant to very confused to fairly sure that the figures are reasonable.
Census 2021 is still a long way off and there will be the added populations of Ballito Hills, Zululami and so on.
Until then I’m sticking with 30-35 000. But – help me here – should anyone have conducted their own exercise, I would love to hear from you.
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The jellyfish has existed as a species for 500 million years, surviving just fine without a brain. That gives hope to quite a few people.