Reclamation 'covered by protection order'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 February, 2008, 12:00am

Society presents case against harbour work

Government plans for temporary reclamation near the Wan Chai waterfront are covered by the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance and should satisfy its requirements, a court heard.

But the Society for the Protection of the Harbour told the Court of First Instance hearing yesterday that the government had failed to meet the test of 'overriding public need' required under the ordinance to overcome its strong presumption against future reclamation.

The Transport and Housing Bureau announced the plans for temporary reclamation works in and around the Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter during construction of the Central-Wan Chai bypass in the Government Gazette in July last year.

But Anthony Neoh SC, counsel for the society, said at the judicial review hearing that there had been scant mention of the works in a report prepared by Maunsell Consultants Asia on the bypass development.

In addition, five separate plans for the temporary reclamation lodged with the lands office would have been difficult for the public to piece together, and the society had to employ its own draftsman to compile them into one plan circulated to the court.

Mr Neoh cited a written submission from the society's director, Hardy Lok Kung-chin, a member of the Harbourfront Enhancement Committee, stating that it was never consulted about the temporary reclamation, which also did not feature in four pamphlets prepared by the government on the Wan Chai reclamation.

'And the breakwater is another kettle of fish,' he said. 'Here, we have a gigantic structure going 1,000 feet [304 metres] into the harbour for at least 6.5 years. Certainly, on present showing, it comes nowhere near complying with the test and was never part of the public consultation.'

Mr Neoh said the Highways Department had written to the society on September 13 last year stating that the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance did not apply to the temporary reclamation because the work was short-term and purely for the purpose of building the road.

'But our position is that you can't make a distinction between temporary and permanent reclamation,' he said.

Mr Neoh asked Mr Justice Michael Hartmann to make a declaration that the temporary works were covered by the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance, adding that the public would then expect the government to provide new reports giving 'cogent and convincing materials' for the reclamation works and showing how they would be kept to a minimum.

But government counsel Jat Sew-tong said that when the secretary for transport and housing had decided to gazette the notice under the roads ordinance, the bureau had already looked at all the options, including the construction method, and decided on a 'cut-and-cover' method that required temporary reclamation.

'It has recommended, based on the overriding public need, the cut-and-cover method,' he said. 'It is already a decision based on cogent and convincing materials.'

The judicial review hearing continues today.