Develop a single land and transport policy

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 March, 2005, 12:00am

Hong Kong's harbourfronts suffer from massive traffic corridors and an acute shortage of land. And no new land will be added, as the public is clearly against reclamation. To enhance these areas and create a vibrant harbour requires the rezoning of the remaining land, the re-engineering of infrastructure and the removal of utilities (such as pumping stations, sewage treatment plants and cargo handling bay areas) and redeploying these elsewhere.

It also means no new infrastructure and utilities, and putting a halt to land sales along the harbourfront. Policy changes are needed to manage the demand for roads, to find alternative sources for land-sale revenue, and to identify funding and funding mechanisms for harbourfront enhancement projects. Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands Michael Suen Ming-yeung has, to date, failed to put forward a proactive policy for retaining the final plots of land around our harbour for enhancement. Harbourfront land has been - or is earmarked to be - sold for development or used for infrastructure and utilities.

What is more, Mr Suen has failed to put forward initiatives to control development in Hong Kong within the constraints of our land resources and transport network around the harbour. Transport studies show that new roads will be needed to cope with future demand as a result of planned and expected developments.

This point was made blatantly clear when Sarah Liao Sau-tung's Environment, Transport and Works Department released plans for Route 4, to include the construction of an 'island eastern corridor' in the Western district, which will consume existing harbourfront land and require new reclamation. A very real and reasonable alternative is for Mr Suen and Ms Liao to develop and implement integrated land development and transport policy initiatives aimed at avoiding the further deterioration of our harbourfronts.

How the harbourfront areas will be managed and financed has become a pressing issue, as no funding or funding mechanisms have been identified. Clearly, the West Kowloon developer-led model is not advisable. Other methods, such as the use of a capital reserve fund, a land development corporation or a harbour authority, are needed. To resolve the shortcomings of the Harbourfront Enhancement Committee, and to ensure that it can advise the government effectively and organise the public consultation exercises, it will need an independent secretariat and funds for research and consultation programmes.

The government must also establish an internal Harbourfront Enhancement Taskforce (like those for West Kowloon and Lantau) to co-ordinate and integrate its efforts to plan a sustainable world-class harbour.

Paul Zimmerman is convenor of Designing Hong Kong Harbour District, principal of The Experience Group, a policy and strategy consultancy, and executive director of MF Jebsen International