Speech by Secretary for Development at Launching Ceremony for Publicity Campaign on Heritage Conservation

Following is the speech by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, at the Launching Ceremony for Publicity Campaign on Heritage Conservation today (January 15):

Dr. Richard Engelhardt, Mr Edward Ho and Mr Barry Cheung, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

I wish to extend my warmest welcome and hearty thanks to you all for taking part in the Launching Ceremony for Publicity Campaign on Heritage Conservation today.  In particular, my special thanks to Dr. Engelhardt for coming all the way from Bangkok to present a cultural award on behalf of the UNESCO to a heritage conservation project under the Architectural Services Department of the SAR Government.

In October last year, the Chief Executive announced in his Policy Address that in the coming 5 years, the Government would press ahead the work on heritage conservation.  He specially pointed out that the care which Hong Kong people have expressed for heritage originated from our passion for our culture and lifestyle.  This is something we should cherish.

To demonstrate our determination and commitment to achieve quick results in heritage conservation, we are introducing step-by-step a series of pragmatic and innovative initiatives that would help build up partnership with non-governmental organisations (NGOs).  I would like to take this opportunity to brief you about the initiatives.

The Works Branch of the Development Bureau has just issued a comprehensive technical circular on "Heritage Impact Assessment for New Capital Works Projects" to all our works departments and relevant bureaux and departments for their compliance.  This technical circular sets out detailed requirements on conducting heritage impact assessment for all public works projects at the project inception stage.  This administrative requirement is imposed with the aim to avoiding new projects affecting historic sites or buildings and to minimizing unavoidable impact by suitable mitigating measures.  This requirement can also ensure that members of the public are engaged at the initial stage of the project.

The "Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme (RHBTP Scheme)" which aims to promote adaptive re-use of government-owned historic buildings, has gained support of NGOs and the LegCo Home Affairs Panel through briefings and consultation.  The Scheme will be launched immediately upon funding approval by the Finance Committee of the LegCo on February 1.  This Scheme provides the opportunity for direct public participation in heritage conservation.  Under the Scheme, NGOs can submit proposals for adaptive re-use of government-owned historic buildings.  We hope that creative approaches in preserving our historic buildings and expanding their usage can be adopted to transform them into unique cultural landmarks.  As a pilot, seven buildings will be offered under the Scheme, including the Old Tai Po Police Station (舊大埔警署), Lui Seng Chun (雷生春), Lai Chi Kok Hospital (荔枝角醫院), North Kowloon Magistracy (北九龍裁判法院), Old Tai O Police Station (舊大澳警署), Fong Yuen Study Hall (芳園書室) and Mei Ho House (美荷樓).  

The work of adaptive re-use of historic buildings is not limited to the RHBTP Scheme.  Other projects which are actively pursued include the $1.8 billion Central Police Station Compound Project proposed by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and designed by the internationally-renowned architect Herzog & de Meuron; the daring trial of "retention of both the house and the residents" in the "Blue House conservation project" in Wan Chai; and two projects to be steered by the Government, i.e. the Cantonese Opera Centre to be redeveloped from the Yau Ma Tei Theatre and an interim Museum Plus from the club house of the former Royal Yacht Club in Oil Street, North Point.

In fact, the Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre we are now in is a good example of adaptive re-use.  This Barrack, built in 1910, has successfully undergone adaptive-reuse into a multi-purpose cultural exhibition and education centre after careful and prudent conservation work.  Dr. Engelhardt will present the award to the Architectural Services Department in a moment to commend this innovative cultural conservation and adaptive work.

The Government has not overlooked the value of privately-owned historic buildings.  To prevent privately-owned historic buildings from being demolished for redevelopment or damaged because of lack of maintenance, we will consider using appropriate economic incentives to encourage the owners to preserve those buildings.  King Yin Lei, which has drawn quite a lot of attention, at 45 Stubbs Road is an example of our active handling of privately-owned historic buildings.  We are also planning to expand the existing scheme of repair and restoration works to privately-owned declared monuments to assist private owners of graded historic buildings in carrying out repairs works.  

We have earmarked sufficient resources to take forward the various initiatives on heritage conservation which I mentioned earlier.  To demonstrate that heritage conservation will be an on-going long-term work of the SAR Government, we will soon set up a Commissioner for Heritage's Office in the Development Bureau, which will provide a focal point of co-ordination for public participation, adaptive and repair of historic buildings, as well as for overseas networking.  We will employ a few persons who are interested and equipped with heritage conservation knowledge by open recruitment to join the Commissioner for Heritage's Office so as to take forward the related work with no effort spared.

While the Government will continue to put full effort on taking forward these heritage conservation initiatives, I strongly believe that their success relies heavily on the understanding and support by the community.

We have therefore launched this "Public Awareness Campaign on Heritage Conservation".  There will be a series of activities, including roving exhibitions, seminars, open days for historic buildings under the RHBTP Scheme and guided tours, etc.  We will also launch a brand new webpage on heritage conservation to enhance the dissemination and exchange of information.

We hope that through this Campaign, the community will have deeper understanding of the importance of heritage conservation, be inspired to contribute their views and ideas, and share our vision for heritage conservation.

May I take this opportunity to thank the various professional institutes and NGOs for their help and support in organising these programmes.  Thank you.

Ends/Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Issued at HKT 20:05