Saturday, March 12, 2005
No to one harbour body

I refer to the article "Develop a single land and transport policy" (March 7), by Paul Zimmerman. Informed readers will know that Hong Kong has a well-established land use planning system. Statutory town plans are drawn up through an elaborate and open process. Sustainable development balancing the different needs of society is invariably the planning principle. Areas around the harbour are no exception. Detailed outline zoning plans are being applied, and the process meets changing needs and new circumstances. But to disregard existing plans altogether by freezing developments on new infrastructure and facilities, and halting land sales along the harbourfront is unreasonable and unjustified. Protecting the harbour and enhancing our harbourfront for enjoyment by the community is a major task of the government. As we have said before, there are only three remaining reclamation plans within the harbour. And reclamation will proceed only if there is an overriding public need (such as providing essential transport infrastructure like the Central-Wan Chai bypass) and there is no reasonable alternative. In any case, the government will try to minimise the extent of reclamation. Land sales are not, and will not, be the purpose of reclamation. We agree entirely that we need a harbourfront enhancement strategy - a prime objective in establishing the Harbourfront Enhancement Committee. We look to the HEC to advise us on land-use planning and developments along the existing and new harbourfront, with a view to protecting the harbour and improving its accessibility, utilisation and vibrancy. We welcome ideas from it and other bodies. On the institutional set-up, the government thoroughly considered this before the HEC was established. Considering the need to avoid duplication of work and keep a lean administrative structure, and given the resource constraint within the government, our preferred approach is to establish the HEC but not another authority such as a harbour authority or a harbourfront taskforce. A premature decision to set up yet another bureaucracy may be counter-productive and may result in inefficient use of public funds. However, we will keep under constant review how to further enhance co-ordination among all relevant parties.

THOMAS TSO, deputy secretary for housing, planning and lands


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