PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 August, 2007, 12:00am

What do you think of the Mui Wo-Peng Chau ferry merger proposal?

A Legco Transport Department panel will discuss the proposed merger on Wednesday, August 29.

In the view of the Humanist Association of Hong Kong, the merger and reduction in ferries on the Central-Peng Chau-Mui Wo route, signals a retrograde step.

The likely price hike of the inter-island service as a consequence of it becoming a 'shuttle service', as stated, will hit those people who sell goods between the islands. There is a marked difference between, on the one hand, inter-island travel and trade, and, on the other, getting well-heeled commuters to and from work.

We see government weakness in front of the business community, in particular New World First Ferry Services Limited.

There is a fear of non-take up of the tender unless special provisions are made.

Any decent Hong Kong company knows how to squeeze maximum profits from a deal.

Please just state exactly what we, the people, want as the best service in the tender document and let the market get on with it.

The winning tender holder would also win the hearts of everyone if that company could bring a more efficient and pleasant travelling experience to the islanders because, whatever the problems with the old Yaumati ferry service, at least we got an hourly, timely service with a snack selection and drinks, resulting in much better value-per-ride for many years.

Moderate fare increases are acceptable when they are in line with rising incomes. The fare can be determined, as always, through negotiation.

What we need are better, not curtailed, services. The more regular and faster the ferries, the more visitors will reach the outlying islands, and then everyone gains.

The government should be taking a more forward-thinking approach when it comes to these ferries, not step backwards.

Tony Henderson, chairman, Humanist Association of Hong Kong

Is enough being done to protect trees in Hong Kong?

People were shocked by the news that the 200-year-old banyan tree in Kowloon Park had collapsed. We were shocked because it was so precious and because the government had not made its best efforts to protect the tree.

When something like this happens, it raises suspicions that our administration cares more about new developments than the protection of its natural environment.

I do not think trees are getting the protection they need.

As the supply of urban land is so scarce, most trees are planted on narrow pavements near roads and concrete or tiles cover the roots.

Workers also cut down the branches of some trees, and metal fences surround trees.

The roots of the trees often cannot get the nutrients that they need and cannot grow properly. Also, during construction, the roots are often destroyed.

The government has emphasised the importance of environmental protection. However, if they do not try harder to protect trees, the government will not achieve its aims.

Barry Chan Ka-yu, Sha Tin

The collapse of a large section of one of Hong Kong's oldest trees, shows that not enough is being done to protect trees in the city.

No specific plan was drawn up to protect the tree when Kowloon Park was built in 1989. The roots of the 200-year-old Chinese banyan tree were always deprived of water.

Although the Leisure and Cultural Services Department did try to save the tree - for example, removing bricks and enriching the soil with nutrients - there was no further work done by experienced professionals in this field.

This tree has been dubbed the 'king' banyan in Kowloon Park, and I believe other similarly important trees being treated the same way will deteriorate.

I agree with tree expert Jim Chi-yung that ultrasound should be used to loosen and remove the compressed soil and replace it with quality soil.

A metal support frame should be built for the remainder of the tree.

Immediate action should be taken with the other trees before it is too late.

So Wai-yan, Kwun Tong

Would bigger tax breaks encourage people to have more children?

It has been claimed that raising a child in Hong Kong can cost a couple HK$4 million ('More tax breaks would make for smoother sailing, says proud dad', August 15).

However, not everyone can afford this amount. Bigger tax breaks could definitely encourage more couples to have babies, but it is not enough for the government just to offer this incentive.

Education is another major concern for parents, and fees are huge. If parents want their child to receive a good education, they often have to pay for it.

They might feel this is the only way their child enjoys a good learning environment.

The education system is important. If the policies adopted by the administration are flawed, this will adversely affect the future of children.

Therefore, I think it is important to have a better education system as this will encourage more couples to have babies. With many families, both parents have to go out to work and they are not able to spend as much time as they would wish with their children. For couples who know that they will have to keep working, this might be another reason not to have children.

It is important for couples who know they must keep working to have more childcare facilities made available.

The whole issue of childcare is becoming more important. The government must look at the whole child-rearing environment and ask whether, in its present form, it is suitable for young couples wanting to have children.

Philip Wai Zhen-kwok, Kwun Tong