Sai Wan site step closer to parkland

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 11:16pm


A private enclave on Sai Kung's remote and scenic Tai Long Wan coast could be incorporated into the surrounding country park early next year, after government advisers endorsed the proposal.

The development comes two years after the surroundings of a beach at Sai Wan were partially defaced by illegal excavation on private land in the area, sparking concern over protection of the site.

District councillors and residents of Sai Wan village have been opposing the country park plan, saying it would restrict villagers' rights. But the Country and Marine Parks Board, under the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, yesterday unanimously endorsed invoking statutory procedures to incorporate the enclave into the Sai Kung East Country Park as soon as possible.

A new draft map of the park will be prepared and gazetted for a two-month public consultation, after which the Chief Executive in Council must make a decision within six months.

Board chairwoman Professor Nora Tam Fung-yee said she hoped the first part of the procedure could be finished by next month, so the 16.5-hectare site could become part of the park as soon as possible.

Also endorsed at yesterday's meeting were the incorporation of one hectare at Kam Shan into the Kam Shan Country Park and 19 hectares at Yuen Tun into Tai Lam Country Park. The endorsements followed scrutiny of private enclaves adjacent to or surrounded by country parks, prompted by a row over the excavations at Sai Wan.

Sai Kung District Council expressed strong opposition to the Sai Wan plan in a consultation in February, urging the government to respect villagers' private property rights.

But the government said designating the area as country park would improve management of the site and enhance its overall conservation and landscape value while in turn 'improving the local economy of the area'.

Francis Chau Yin-ming, a district councillor and convenor of a task force to address the rural community's concerns, said villagers would prefer the site to be zoned for village development.

They also hoped that transport to the area - now possible only by sea or via a narrow track - could be improved. 'But at the same time, they were not sure if the government could handle it, as resources for country parks were limited,' he said.

Sai Wan village head Lai Yan said villagers had lost confidence in the department's management after numerous complaints about rubbish on the beach drew no response. He said rubbish on the beach was only removed infrequently, making the environment unpleasant.

'From what we can see, the department is doing a bad job,' he said 'We don't dare hope for anything when the area [becomes] country park.'

Lobby group Designing Hong Kong welcomed the board's decision, but was concerned about the continuing processing of applications to build village houses. It also worried about 34 similar enclaves that were still without protection.