Harbourfront Commission submits final report on proposed establishment of Harbourfront Authority to Government

The following is issued on behalf of the Harbourfront Commission:

The Harbourfront Commission (HC) has submitted its final report on the proposed establishment of a Harbourfront Authority (HFA) to the Chief Executive.

The HC proposed that the HFA should have three major functions, namely governance and management, advisory and advocacy, and executive functions. For governance and management, it is proposed that the HFA should have a governing Board with broad-based representation comprising not more than 20 members to be appointed by the Chief Executive on a personal basis. To ensure public accountability, all major requirements currently applicable to comparable statutory bodies should be introduced to the HFA to safeguard public interest. 

An incremental land allocation and development strategy is also proposed to be adopted. The Government can consider allocating to the HFA newly reclaimed land and/or sites primarily zoned as open space that are available for development in phases, including the New Central Harbourfront, the Wan Chai-North Point harbourfront, the Quarry Bay harbourfront, the Kwun Tong harbourfront and the Hung Hom harbourfront.

On advisory functions, the HC should be disbanded upon the establishment of the HFA and the latter will take over its current advisory and advocacy role in relation to the Victoria Harbourfront as a whole.

As for executive functions, it was proposed that civil servants from relevant disciplines be seconded to the HFA's establishment during the initial years to form a dedicated government team to support its operation. This is to ensure that the HFA will be able to perform effectively right from the time of its establishment. Meanwhile, suitable talents from the private sector can be recruited to assist the work of the team.

The Chairman of the Commission, Mr Nicholas Brooke, said today (January 19), "Generally speaking, the final proposal largely follows the above framework which was introduced in the Phase II Public Engagement Exercise. The only major difference rests with the proposed financial arrangement to take on board the conclusion of an independent financial consultancy study, which indicated the need for financial support from the Government to fund necessary infrastructure and enhancement works if the HFA was to assume responsibility for eight sites proposed for allocation.

"In the light of the study findings, we recommend the Government to set aside about $10.2 billion for the HFA to develop the proposed sites. This amount is considered by the financial consultant to be necessary capital costs for initial development of the proposed sites net of potential operational revenues from new facilities.

"We also recommend that financial sustainability of the HFA should be regarded as a long-term aspiration rather than a necessary principle to be achieved at the outset. In addition, there would be the need for the Government to provide funding to cover all recurrent expenses throughout the three- to five-year development stage and to review this arrangement towards the end of this period."

Mr Brooke noted that the HC appreciates that the proposal put forward involves substantial financial commitment and allocation of valuable public resources to the HFA. However, these are costs which the Government itself, over time, would need to meet to enhance the eight sites. Furthermore, the HC considers that the HFA could deliver, in a more cost-effective and efficient manner, a wider, more creative range of publicly supported social and economic objectives along the harbourfront.

"We believe it is a worthwhile investment. The adoption of a 'can-do' model and the encouragement of shared use of precious harbourfront areas will lift the entire harbourfront planning, development, operation and management approach of Hong Kong to a new height. The establishment of the HFA will be a key step in achieving our shared vision of building a harbour for the people and a harbour of vitality. As in the past, the HC stands ready to work with the Government and provide support in taking the proposal forward," he said.

In October 2012, the HC recommended the establishment of a dedicated statutory body with its own financial resources and mission in order to realise the long-term objective of creating a world-class harbourfront for Hong Kong that is attractive, vibrant, accessible and sustainable. The HC and the Development Bureau then conducted a two-phase Public Engagement Exercise in the period between October 2013 and December 2014 to gauge public views on the aspirations for the Victoria Harbourfront and a detailed framework for the operation of the proposed HFA, including its vision, functions, financial arrangements, land matters and public accountability measures.

"The Public Engagement Exercises showed that there was general support for the establishment of a dedicated authority to achieve harbourfront development in a holistic manner with an innovative mindset and a more flexible management approach. Positive response aside, the public also reminded the HC to be mindful of the degree of commercialisation along the harbourfront and aware of its social responsibilities, to carefully consider the long-term financial sustainability of the HFA and not to overlook possible conflicts of interest between the advisory and executive roles of the HFA. The HC is grateful for these useful comments and has given them serious consideration before formulating detailed recommendations on how the HFA should operate," Mr Brooke concluded.

The English final report (www.hfc.org.hk/hape/en/news/index.html) and the consultation digest of the Phase II Public Engagement Exercise (www.hfc.org.hk/hape/doc/en/public_engagement_materials/PhaseII_PE_Digest.pdf) are available at the dedicated website of the Proposed Establishment of a Harbourfront Authority.

Ends/Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Issued at HKT 17:00