2001 report backs preservation of Star Ferry pier

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 December, 2006, 12:00am

Conservationists seize on EIA finding that the site is of great historic significance

A 2001 government environmental impact assessment (EIA) report on the Central reclamation describes the old Star Ferry pier as a structure of 'great significance' and warns that its destruction would provoke a public 'outcry and dismay'.

The report was resurrected yesterday by conservationists in a last-ditch effort at preservation as authorities prepared for demolition.

Titled 'A Survey Report of Historical Buildings and Structures within the Project Area of the Central Reclamation Phase III', it says the Star Ferry pier is a building of great significance for its role in the city's transport history.

'Its destruction would likely raise public objection and dismay,' an appendix of the report says. The Antiquities and Monuments Office commissioned the appendix.

Regarding Queen's Pier and Edinburgh Place, the landing place for governors after their arrival at the former Kai Tak airport, the appendix says: 'Their reclamation would scrap forever the concrete link to a brief past of local development.'

Under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance, heritage is considered part of the environment, so statutory EIA reports sometimes include heritage surveys. The Environmental Protection Department is the overall authority on EIA reports, but the Antiquities and Monuments Office is the department in charge of heritage surveys. EIA reports are public documents and stored at the department's office.

'The government shouldn't blame the public for not speaking out against the demolition of the piers during public consultation,' said Alex Hui Yat-chuen, a curator at the University of Hong Kong's University Museum and Art Galley.

'The public document warned against the demolition of the piers; as a member of the public, I got the impression that they would be preserved after reading the EIA report.'

An Antiquities Advisory Board member said an objection to the Star Ferry pier's demolition was raised when the Planning Department presented the Central reclamation plan to the board in 2002.

Board member Chow Wai-lee said she could not recall exactly what happened at the meeting, but she said yesterday: 'I always believed the pier should be preserved as it is in our collective memory and an icon of Hong Kong.'

The Antiquities Advisory Board did not vote on whether the piers should be preserved. A source close to the board said: 'There were nine discussion items; the Star Ferry pier, Queen's Pier and Edinburgh Place were grouped into one. The discussion on the piers was brief. It only lasted a few minutes and one member raised objections to the demolition plan.'

The Civil Engineering and Development Department last night confirmed the government presented the heritage report to board on March 12, 2002. The board was aware of the need to move the Star Ferry pier, a spokesman said.

The government said the board deliberated on the recommendations of the assessment report and received no objections about its redevelopment plan.