Top firms unite in bid to protect harbour

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 May, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 May, 2005, 12:00am

More than 100 corporations will join environmentalists next week to launch a new lobby group to urge the government to better protect the harbour.

The Harbour Business Forum, which has 106 members including some of the city's biggest companies, will announce its formation officially on Thursday - adding considerable clout to environmentalists' ongoing efforts to protect Victoria Harbour from rampant reclamation and development.

Hongkong Bank is spearheading the group, sources said. Members include Jardines, developers Hong Kong Land, the Swire Group, Sun Hung Kai Properties and the Kerry Group, the largest single shareholder of the SCMP Group.

Hongkong Bank chairman Vincent Cheng Hoi-chuen will act as spokesman. He was unavailable for comment last night, as were several others involved in the forum. One member said: 'They want to make a big splash about this and want to wait until the official launch next week.'

It is believed that the lobby group will call for the establishment of a single body to oversee harbour development.

Mr Cheng will be joined at the launch by Andrew Long, chairman of the Business Environment Council, which works with business and community groups to promote sustainable development.

An article by Paul Zimmerman in The Bulletin, the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce's magazine, said the council initiated the establishment of the forum, with Hongkong Bank as the convening patron.

'Other businesses and professionals are encouraged to join the forum to have their say in the planning of the urban environment around the harbour. Creating a quality living environment is essential if Hong Kong is to attract and retain the talent it needs to ensure our continued economic success,' Mr Zimmerman, chief co-convenor of Designing Hong Kong Harbour District, said in the article.

Earlier this month, the group held its first meeting at the HSBC headquarters.

Asked what he thought of the establishment of a business lobby group that concentrated on harbour-related issues, Timothy Li Sung-ming, press secretary for Michael Suen Ming-yeung, Secretary of Housing, Planning and Lands, said: 'What's wrong with it? Everyone is free to express their views. If the business organisations join the environmentalists to pursue certain objectives, as long as those objectives are legal, it is OK.'

He said the extension of the consultation period on the West Kowloon project showed the government took public concerns seriously and acted on them.