No new harbour reclamation plan

The Government has, in response to public demands, committed that there would be no new reclamation plan in Victoria Harbour, the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen, said today (September 24).

Speaking at the 44th Annual General Meeting of the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, Mr Suen said, "In light of the prevailing circumstances, the reclamation of the harbour is almost at an end.

"The harbour is one of our most valuable natural assets and no one wants to see it getting narrower and narrower."

He said that since the passage of the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance by the Legislative Council in 1997, the Government had made every effort to comply with its provisions and excluded all new reclamation plans. For the three outstanding reclamation projects, only imperative and minimum reclamations that comply with requirements of the law would be carried out.

"There continue to be some calls from time to time urging the Government to stop reclamation in Central. Perhaps some people think that the Government could well give up reclamation and should insist no more," Mr Suen said.

"However, we must note that planning for reclamation in Central and Wan Chai has started in the 1980s. The two reclamation projects in Central and Wan Chai are still outstanding for the completion of the trunk road system on the northern shore of Hong Kong Island.

"Therefore, would it be right for us to rashly stop the last portion of a major project near completion regardless of the overall planning?"

Mr Suen said that the Central Reclamation Phase III is already the minimum reclamation, which is to meet pressing transport needs. As to the nearby Wan Chai Development, a review was under way and the principle was to greatly reduce the extent of reclamation.

"On the Kowloon side, only a site subsequent to the relocation of the former airport is left. We restart the planning process based on the principle of 'zero reclamation'. We recently announced the launching of a new round of consultations lasting two months with the aim of listening to public views before coming up with initial planning concepts. Compared with the past practice of having a plan before conducting consultations, now there is an additional stage for public participation. This is a new attempt.

"Through all these, we want the public to know that the Government is not just paying lip service to harbour protection," he added.

The Government, Mr Suen said, was sincere in responding to the demands of professional bodies, green groups and the public on protection of the harbour.

"The Government has set up the Harbour-front Enhancement Committee, with the appointment of representatives from a number of professional bodies and concern groups to advise the Government on how to make the harbour more accessible to the public and to make it a harbour for the people.

"I share the public's passion to preserve the harbour. I look forward to joining with the public to achieve this," Mr Suen said.

Ends/Friday, September 24, 2004