Not too late to save pier, critics urge

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 December, 2006, 12:00am

But planning sector legislator says demolition should go ahead as plan to rebuild clock tower is sufficient

Opinion on the government's plan to demolish the Star Ferry pier is divided between those who think it's too late and others who argue there is still time to reopen the debate.

Betty Ho Siu-fong, chairwoman of the Conservancy Association, said it was the government's responsibility to listen to the public.

She said the government could wait because the waterfront was still being designed. 'We need to reopen discussions and work to preserve the pier,' she said. 'The government can work on other parts of the reclamation project first.'

She proposed that the government first construct a seawall to protect the pier during reclamation. 'The government is in the process of designing the Central waterfront. It can use this time to figure out how to preserve the pier.'

Ada Wong Ying-kay, chairwoman and founder of the Hong Kong Institute of Contemporary Culture, said the pier should be saved. If it stood in the way of the reclamation and construction project, which involves building a highway and a shopping mall, it and the clock tower should be resurrected after the project is completed, she said.

'I hope the government can have a dialogue with society,' she said. 'But it seems it is not going to happen after seeing how strongly the government has reacted to the protesters at the pier. It looks like it is the government's sore point, reflecting its dislike of activists.'

Architectural and planning sector legislator Patrick Lau Sau-shing said it was too late to preserve the pier.

'We need to stop the debate. The government has agreed to reconstruct the clock tower. I understand the government has detailed surveying on reconstructing it,' said Mr Lau, who is also a member of the Antiquities Advisory Board. 'As the pier is a concrete structure, it is easy to reconstruct it.'

Meanwhile, Civic Party vice-chairman Albert Lai Kwong-tak said the system of protecting Hong Kong's heritage was bankrupt and open to manipulation by the government.

'The government knows the public is questioning its creditability but the [Antiquities Advisory Board] decided to seal the fate of the pier in a closed-door meeting in total disregard of public opinion,' said Mr Lai, who is also convenor of Citizens Envisioning @ Harbour. 'It has set a very bad precedent.'

He was referring to the Antiquities Advisory Board's abrupt endorsement of the government's pier demolition plan on Tuesday, a day after it was disclosed that a little-known 2001 government environmental impact assessment report on the Central reclamation had warned of a public outcry and dismay if any plan to destroy the historic pier were put forward.

The report's appendix describes the old Star Ferry pier as a structure of 'great significance'. The report was resurrected by conservationists in a last-ditch effort to force the preservation of the pier.

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 because of its role in the city's transport history.

'Its destruction would likely raise public objection and dismay,' the appendix, commissioned by the Antiquities and Monuments Office, says.

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.