Outspoken environmental activist
Paul Zimmerman has resigned from the
government-appointed Harbourfront Enhancement
Committee, saying the administration's refusal to
look at the "big picture" in terms of harborfront
preservation has rendered his past two years of
"I've spent a lot of time on the committee, and
I think it's time wasted," he told members at the
committee's quarterly meeting Thursday.
"There are other ways for me to address the
issue [of harbor preservation] that would cost me
less time and would be more effective than the
many hours I've spent here."
Due to a lack of leadership, the two- year-old
committee had failed to work as a "proper
interface" between the public and the government,
For instance, despite his repeated calls for a
review on the Central waterfront area, government
members were obstinate about postponing the task
until July - after the proposal for a HK$5 billion
government headquarters at Tamar is expected to
pass through the Legislative Council.
"So I'm not willing to sit here and waste my
time if that's the attitude from the other side,"
He added that he and other activists would soon
be holding several public forums on the planning
of the Central harborfront to talk about the "real
Zimmerman's relinquishment of the business
representative post on the 29-member committee
comes fast on the heels of his resignation in
February from the executive committee of the
Harbour Business Forum - two events he admits are
It also comes at a tense time when politicians
and businesses alike are feeling the pressure to
back the Tamar proposal, according to sources.
"Now it's up to them to find their own voice,
to step up, and to not stand down when the heat
gets too hot in the kitchen," Zimmerman said.
He added, in closing: "I look forward to
working together with all of you, because I will
definitely not shut up outside this committee."
Deputy Secretary for Housing, Planning and
Lands Robin Ip Man-fai responded by gesturing at
the handful of officials present at the meeting,
insisting the government's support was more than
"The committee has done a great deal in the
past few years ... I cannot agree that not enough
resources have been put in," he said.
Earlier in the meeting, committee members
debated whether legal advice should be sought to
ensure reclamation for the proposed Central-Wan
Chai bypass corridor would pass the "overriding
public need" test, in accordance with a 2004 Court
of Final Appeal ruling. Since the ruling,
reclamation works in Hong Kong have come to a
Government officials expressed an eagerness to
consult lawyers for clarification on the term
They wondered, for example, whether pilings
used to support a flyover or a pier would
constitute reclamation as they would technically
lie on the seabed.
But property surveyor Nicholas Brooke advised
against going into such detail, warning that such
an approach would steer the committee off-track.
"I caution against proceeding in too formal a
manner and bogging ourselves down in fine print,"
"We should focus on the outcomes, and then
market these outcomes to groups and persuade them
they're in the best interest of Hong Kong. We need
to convince them to adopt a pragmatic approach."
Zimmerman agreed, saying the 2004 ruling may
not have considered reclamation for public needs,
such as piers or other recreational facilities.
"The government is stifled right now. They're
so worried about that ruling that they're not
coming up with a strategy," he said after the
"We need to discuss principles during the
planning stage - if you build more developments,
you'll eventually need more roads, which means
He said that, while the building of the
Central-Wan Chai bypass could be excused because
it was proposed before the court's ruling, it
should not be used as justification to pursue
further reclamation in the same manner.