Friday, March 18, 2005
Government's job to clean up messy harbourfronts

In the letter "No to one harbour body" (March 12), Deputy Secretary for Housing Thomas Tso refers to Hong Kong's elaborate and well-established land use planning system. Mr Tso is a key member of the Planning and Lands Development Committee, which is Hong Kong's de facto harbour authority. It controls the chair and secretariat of the Town Planning Board, the secretariats of the Harbourfront Enhancement Committee (HEC) and the West Kowloon taskforce, the planning consultations, the planning and lands papers for Exco and Legco, the land sales agenda and amendments to the town planning ordinance. With that power and this celebrated land-use planning system, why are our harbourfronts in such a mess? Why is the actual development of the area from the KCRC freight yard to the Hunghom ferry piers entirely different from the government's own Harbour Plan Study published in 2003? Why do we need a $600 million upgrade of the Central Ferry Pier, at public expense, whereas the private sector originally offered to pay $300 million for the right to build and operate it? Why is our planning held hostage by the government's legal vulnerability to engineers who continue to demonstrate that reasonable alternative methods can reduce reclamation in Central and Causeway Bay? Why are our harbourfronts from West Kowloon to Yau Tong and from Taikoo Shing to Kennedy Town blighted with the storage of construction materials, car parks, construction waste disposal, and large stretches of waste land? Why is the reprovisioning of the cargo-handling areas in Kwun Tong and Cha Kwo Ling under threat by the government's own initiatives to improve the economics of the recycling industry? Why does the government continue to push for its offices on Tamar when there is no room for more traffic? Why is the government pushing for a cruise terminal on the tip of the old Kai Tak airport where there are no major roads, rail, retail or hotel accommodation to support it? Why not build multiple separate heliports around the harbour rather than a few integrated ones? The deputy secretary says that the government looks to the HEC for advice on land-use planning and development along the existing and new harbourfronts. If so, then why is the Oil Street government depot put up for sale without a review by the HEC? With the refusal to consider alternative mechanisms for managing the harbour, the onus is now on the Planning and Lands Development Committee to present Hong Kong with a proactive and sustainable harbourfront enhancement strategy, a time line and an explanation of how it will obtain the funds required.

PAUL ZIMMERMAN, Mid-Levels


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