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LCQ2: Development of waterfront sites

Following is a question by the Hon Ip Kwok-him and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (November 25):

Question:

The authorities are now actively planning and enhancing the waterfronts of the Victoria Harbour.  At the meeting of the Subcommittee on Harbourfront Planning held on the 9th of this month, the Secretary for Development advised that the Government intended to introduce public-private partnership (PPP) to develop Sites 1 and 2 at the new Central harbourfront.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) what criteria the authorities use in deciding whether to adopt a PPP approach or a government-funding approach to develop and enhance a particular waterfront site;

(b) apart from Sites 1 and 2 at the new Central harbourfront, what other waterfront sites the authorities also intend to develop using the PPP approach; which waterfront sites will be developed by the Government with its own funding, as well as which government department will be responsible for the development and management of those sites; and

(c) what policies the authorities have in place, on the one hand, to encourage developers to participate in the development of waterfront sites so as to implement the harbourfront enhancement projects and, on the other hand, not to arouse public query that the Government is transferring benefits to developers?

Reply:

President,

The development of Sites 1 and 2 at the new Central harbourfront is one of the projects under the initiative of “Conserving Central”, put forward by the Chief Executive in his Policy Address this year.  It is also our most important endeavour to beautify and create a vibrant, attractive and accessible Victoria harbourfront.  With reference to overseas and local experiences, we propose to develop this waterfront site (being 2.3 hectares in size) into a mixed-use precinct for cultural, recreational and leisure uses through public-private partnership (PPP) for public enjoyment.  My reply to the three-part question is as follows-

(a) In considering whether to enhance the harbourfront through PPP, first and foremost we have to consider the location and business potential of a waterfront site.  Generally speaking, it is more suitable to engage the private sector to design, build and operate those waterfront sites in commercial and tourist areas than in residential areas.  Moreover, unlike the quiet and passive waterfronts that mainly provide an environment for people to stroll and enjoy the scenic Victoria Harbour, a vibrant and active waterfront with entertainment, retail and dining facilities would be even more suitable to have the participation of the private sector in the design and operation of the harbourfront.

Compared with the established Government practice of constructing waterfront parks or promenades by way of public works projects or minor works, and managing them by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, the private sector is usually more creative, efficient and flexible in terms of planning, design, financing, development, operation and facilities management.  We believe that the participation of the private sector can add vibrancy to our harbourfront.

In fact, there are many overseas examples of enhancing and developing waterfront sites through PPP.   In the past two years, both the Task Group on Management Model for the Harbourfront of the Harbour-front Enhancement Committee and myself have separately visited many overseas waterfront sites, including the South Bank of London, Darling Harbour of Sydney as well as the Singapore River.   I agree with the Committee’s view that we should select suitable waterfront sites for engaging the private sector to assist in developing and creating an ideal waterfront, for the enjoyment of both the public and tourists.

I would particularly like to point out that PPP is not only for business consortia or property developers.  We also welcome non-governmental organisations and social enterprises to participate in harbourfront development.

(b) In deciding whether a harbourfront site should be constructed and managed by the Government or through PPP, we need to adopt a flexible mindset, taking into consideration factors such as site details and public expectation on a case-by-case basis.  As far as the new Central harbourfront is concerned, currently only Sites 1 and 2 are planned to be designed, built and operated by PPP.

As regards the harbourfront sites in other districts, we have planned to carry out 15 harbourfront enhancement projects in the next five years, all of which will be financed, designed, constructed and managed solely by the Government.  These projects are set out at Annex.

(c) In implementing any harbourfront enhancement projects, public interest is our primary concern.  We will, in an open, fair and impartial manner, engage and select suitable partners.  We will set out in detail the terms and conditions in the partnership agreement, to ensure that public interest is protected.

Ends/Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Issued at HKT 12:19

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