Government rejects harbour authority idea

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 August, 2007, 12:00am

The government has rejected the idea of turning its harbour advisory committee into a statutory body - sparking criticism that it is throwing out the notion before it has even been formally discussed.

A Development Bureau spokeswoman said yesterday that a harbour authority would involve complicated issues and 'we do not see sufficient merit in the proposal at this stage'.

She was responding to suggestions from members of the newly reappointed Harbourfront Enhancement Committee that it could eventually become a statutory body to manage the area.

Members plan to discuss the idea when the committee resumes meeting next month.

The spokeswoman's response echoed government reaction when the idea was floated by harbour activists.

Committee member Nicholas Brooke said the government had reached the conclusion far too early.

'Clearly it is under the committee's terms of reference to discuss the issue; the government is pre-empting the situation,' he said, adding it should be the committee that came up with recommendations for the government.

Committee chairman Lee Chack-fan said setting up an authority would require legislation, and the issue should have been left for discussion among members.

Meanwhile, the business sector supports the call for a more effective institution to manage waterfront areas.

A study commissioned by the Harbour Business Forum will recommend options for improving the current management, and it will be completed in three to six months.

Andrew Thomson, a spokesman for the forum, said the study would gather overseas examples of designing, developing and managing waterfront areas. It will also come up with recommendations for local implementation. He added that an institution like the Airport Authority would be good for integrating all harbour-related issues.

'We must look for institutional arrangements that cut across jurisdictional boundaries, resolve conflicts and action improvement programmes,' he said. 'We believe this is one of the most important factors in the delivery of a world-class waterfront in line with the harbour planning principles and guidelines.'

The forum, an independent organisation of more than 120 leading business members including property developers, issued a list of harbour planning principles in June.