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North eThekwini has been a major area of growth within the city-region since the 1990s, receiving both private and public investment. Tongaat-Hulett, a major sugar company, historically owned substantial tracts of land in the area and has played a central role in its development, converting agricultural holdings into urban land. King Shaka International Airport – a mega project development that opened in 2010 – has also directed state investment to the area. There are plans to turn this part of eThekwini into an ‘aerotropolis’.

eThekwini north historically developed around sugar and tourism, although some clothing and textile firms also emerged. Since the 1990s however, office, retail and townhouse complexes have developed within the area, and a major new airport was established in 2010. […] Non-residential development has been particularly significant in eThekwini north, reinforcing arguments that new economic centralities are emerging in the area. - Todes (2014, p. 250)

The residential settlements we focus on in northern eThekwini include Verulam, a historical Indian township; Hammond’s Farm, a new RDP greenfields development; and Waterloo, an older RDP settlement. We also include a number of smaller informal settlements in the area such as Coniston and Canelands.

The Housing Division of the eThekwini (Durban) Metropolitan Authority has, alongside many other housing developments, recently constructed a large cluster of double-storey row houses (which residents call ‘flats’) in a new green-field settlement named Hammond’s Farm (HF) on the outskirts of Verulam to the north of the city very near to the southern end of the new King Shaka airport. Effectively a new neighbourhood has been constructed including formal road layout, electrification, street lighting and plot demarcation. As yet no schools, community facilities or formal economic or retail spaces have been planned or built and residents rely on a pre-existing Spar supermarket complex with other smaller stores located nearby, as well as facilities in the adjacent areas of Waterloo and Verulam to sustain their needs. […] [Residents’] new location as they were moved into their new formal housing, adjacent to the large formerly Indian township Verulam and another older RDP estate, Waterloo, meant a localised increase in competition over scarce job opportunities, poorer access to work, and a resultant growing reliance on food handouts from local religious and governance organisations. - Meth and Buthelezi (2017, p. 80)

Findings from our study in 2017 reveal a complex mix of trends in the area. The relative location of the informal settlements of Coniston and Caneland to local factories offered some residents low-waged employment. However, everyday life in these settlements was very difficult with poor quality housing a key concern. Recent state investments in toilet blocks was warmly welcomed. In neighbouring Waterloo, there was evidence of the consolidation of housing, services, road networks and facilities such as sports centres. As in all areas, crime was a serious concern. In Hammond’s Farm, the costs of new state housing were proving prohibitive alongside persistent unemployment. Residents experienced dislocation from nearby employment opportunities. This was a result of a skills mismatch, but also a lack of affordable neighbourhood scale transportation solutions. Significant nearby investments in the airport and the economic hub of Umhlanga offered very few benefits to these residents, hence despite the general economic growth of this northern part of the city, the economic impacts into these poorer neighbouring locations were limited.

A summary of key findings for this area can be found in the northern eThekwini pamphlet.

The case study of northern eThekwini also builds on the work of our two principal investigators – Prof Alison Todes and Dr Paula Meth. See their latest papers on northern eThekwini in our Publications section.