Officials confident on Disney timetable

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 December, 1999, 12:00am

Top officials said yesterday they were confident the Disneyland project would be completed on time in 2005, but that it would be scrapped if it failed environmental tests.

The remarks were made as the Government signed contracts with Walt Disney amid doubts that construction would be delayed by environmental studies.

Financial Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said: 'I'm sure that with the contribution of various government departments and Walt Disney, we're going to complete this project on time and hopefully within budget.' Green groups doubt if the administration can finish environmental impact assessment studies for the project in time after the Environmental Protection Department issued 'exceptionally long' 31-page guidelines for the studies this week.

The Civil Engineering Department will only have up to four months to conduct the studies to allow two months of public consultation before reclamation begins at Penny's Bay on Lantau Island in May.

The site is scheduled to be handed over to Disney to build the theme park by the end of 2002.

The joint-venture company could claim compensation if there is any delay for government works of longer than three months.

Yesterday, Tourism Commissioner Mike Rowse denied trying to rush through the environmental procedures.

'We sat down with the Civil Engineering Department and Environmental Protection Department and discussed how long the environmental procedures would take to do a thorough job,' he said.

He said the project would be dropped if it did not pass the environmental test.

'We'll unfortunately have to tear up the agreement and agree to walk away from each other with no payment or compensation either way,' he said.

Asked what the chances were of the project not being able to obtain environmental permits, Mr Rowse said: 'About the same as me winning the Mark Six.' He said many related studies had been carried out and they would see to what extent these reports needed to be updated or redone.

Mr Tsang said: 'I do believe that it's a win-win situation for Hong Kong and Walt Disney.' Judson Green, chairman of Walt Disney Attractions, said they were thrilled that many months of hard work had come to a conclusion.

'We picked Hong Kong because it is a world-class vibrant city that has a fabulous reputation around the world.' The Government and Walt Disney signed five main agreements on the management of the park, licensing of Disney's intellectual property, shareholders' rights and obligations, loan arrangements and the master project.