Campaigners working to protect the harbour have hit out at a motion to dilute the Protection of Harbour Ordinance (PHO), claiming proposals by lawmaker Alice Mak Mei-kuen are “one-sided” with “factual mistakes and grave misstatements of the law”, and demanding to know who is behind the manoeuvre.
Mak, lawmaker for New Territories West, claims the area protected under the PHO is “too wide” and “provisions too rigid”, and has introduced a proposal to relax the rules for large swathes of the harbour.
“The original intention of the PHO is to prevent the harbour from narrowing down by restricting reclamation. However, the present PHO restricts not only reclamation, but almost all possibility of well using of the harbour and thus is not in line with the original intention,” the lawmaker will tell a LegCo Development Panel meeting later today.
But activists say this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the law.
Paul Zimmerman, district councillor and CEO of Designing Hong Kong, said yesterday reclamation is in fact already possible under the Ordinance, as proven by many recent projects. “There’s nothing wrong with the Ordinance. Do not be misled by Ms Alice Mak,” he said.
“But when we do reclamation we have to do the right thing. You have to go through the steps. Is there a need? Is there no other alternative? There are different solutions and you have to use the one that minimises reclamation,” he said.
Zimmerman cited the example of the proposals to build a bridge between Ngau Tau Kok and the tourism nodes of the former Kai Tak runway. Under the PHO, such a bridge would likely be rejected. “If you would build that, you’d cut off part of the typhoon shelter. You have to be careful, and the Ordinance forces you to be careful. So the reasonable alternative there is a ferry.”
Winston Chu Ka-sun, who heads the Society for the Protection of the Harbour, called into question Mak’s motives.
“Who is asking for this?” he said at a press conference yesterday. “The government has been cooperating with us for the past 20 years – the government is not asking for this, god knows who is asking for this, but it’s not the people of Hong Kong. Is it private developers? You will have to ask Alice Mak but it is not for the people, it is not for the government.”
Chu talked of a developer proposal to fill in the bay around Yau Tong for private housing. “We were able to stop this because of the PHO, in fact permission was refused thanks to the government on its own initiative,” he said.
“I have to warn the people of Hong Kong, what we are facing is a lot of temptation,” he said.
The document from Mak, he said “is surprisingly not an objective document as one would expect but is completely one-sided. It contains serious factual mistakes and grave misstatements of the law. Thus is is misleading both to the Legislative Council and to the public.”
Zimmerman agreed. “If you kill the PHO then there is no more regulation and we are back at the risk that the harbour will be lost to the people,” he said.
Mak did not return several calls for comment over the last few weeks. Her proposals will be discussed this afternoon with the Secretary for Development present. Angora Ngai Lai-ying, assistant Secretary (Harbour) 1 with the Development Bureau will also field questions from lawmakers.
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