Alternatives to a Tamar move
Donald Tsang Yam-kuen sent a message to legislators yesterday to get on with building a large government complex at Tamar, including a separate space for the Legislative Council.
However, he did not explain why the new complex needs to have 3.7 million sq ft of floor space, which is more than the Two International Finance Centre office towers, and how many officers are expected to be relocated there.
There is less reason today to assume a cheek-by-jowl approach produces efficiency. Physical proximity is not enough to ensure good communication, and distance is not necessarily a barrier to teamwork. There are advantages to a distributed location system and risks in a highly concentrated one.
Firstly, having experienced the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in 2003, packing a large number of government decision-makers and officers in one location does not appear to be the wisest choice.
Secondly, the degree of disruption to government functioning is likely to be higher should Tamar be affected by natural calamities, accidents or even terrorist attacks with so many people in one location.
Building a giant complex is not the only answer to address lack of space, especially if there are merits to distributing government officers in different locations.
The first option must be to consider expansion and improvements at the Central Government Offices. It is unclear if this has been truly explored or whether there is just an assumption among the top brass that there is no way to squeeze more space from the existing sites.
This option has other advantages. The CGO is in an attractive location with natural greenery, and in a low-density setting. It is connected to Government House, beyond which is the Botanical Gardens.
While Tamar will offer a magnificent harbour view, the current setting provides an entirely different feel.
Is it possible to conceive of an attractive plan that uses space within the CGO and Murray Building more efficiently, provides functional and aesthetic improvements, possibly even allows for additional space to be constructed, and for these areas to be better linked to Government House and the Botanical Gardens so that this becomes a unique local icon?
There would then be no need to consider selling the CGO and Murray Building to generate revenue to pay for the $6 billion development at Tamar.
Christine Loh Kung-wai is chief executive officer of independent think-tank Civic Exchange