Government responds to request from harbour protection group

In response to media enquiries on the request put forward by the Action Group on Protection of Victoria Harbour to stop reclamation works in the Victoria Harbour, a spokesman for the Housing, Planning and Lands Bureau said today (March 21):

"There have been by now two decisions of the High Court in favour of the Government in relation to the Central Reclamation Phase III (CRIII) works. Taking account of the urgency of the works involved, the public interest and the third party rights created, the Government can see no valid reason to continue suspending the works. We have received feedback over the past few months in support of the early completion of the essential roads to resolve the predictable traffic congestion problem in the Central and Wan Chai areas.

Amongst those, which have written to the Government in support of implementation of CRIII as soon as possible, are the Hong Kong Institute of Architects and the Hong Kong Institute of Planners. Both the Transport Advisory Committee and the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in Hong Kong have also provided written support for the Central-Wan Chai Bypass. The MTR Corporation has reiterated the urgent need for the overrun tunnel extension to be provided within the CRIII. At its meeting on March 19, the Town Planning Board expressed its wish that legal disputes should be put to an end and all parties concerned should work concertedly to create a vibrant and accessible harbour-front.

The Government shares the community's aspirations and is firmly committed to the protection and preservation of the Harbour. We have repeated time and again that other than the remaining phases of the Central and Wan Chai reclamation and Southeast Kowloon proposal, there will be no more reclamations within the Harbour.

The public has expressed in clear and loud terms their aspiration for the Harbour and seeks active participation in the process of turning their aspiration into reality. To this end, the Government has also made known its plan to work with the community to create a vibrant harbour-front for the enjoyment of the community through a broad-based Harbour-front Committee.

Since its announcement, the Government has received very enthusiastic feedback from stakeholders. Ongoing discussions with these groups including the Society for Protection of the Harbour are taking place to ensure the Committee will have a broad-based representation.

The Permanent Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands (Planning and Lands), Mrs Carrie Lam, attended a roundtable meeting organised by the Citizen Envisioning@Harbour this morning (March 21) to discuss the matter. Comprising 16 professional bodies, universities, community and environmental groups, Citizen Envisioning@Harbour has publicly urged prior to the handing down of the High Court judgment that both sides should not contemplate any further appeals and efforts should be focused on consensus building.

The Advisory Committee on the Enhancement of the Harbour-front is tasked to help create the needed partnership and assist in consensus building. It will advise the Government on the planning, land use, design and development issues relating to the existing and new harbour-front areas.

In light of the High Court's judgment handed down on March 9 on CRIII, the legal disputes on harbour reclamation should be put to an end. It is now time for us to move on to meet the community's needs. We call for unity in the community with joint effort to fulfil a common vision for the Harbour."

Ends/Sunday, March 21, 2004