Years of delays inevitable even without an appeal, says engineer

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 March, 2008, 12:00am

The government will face delays in building the harbourfront relief road whether or not it appeals against yesterday's court ruling, an expert says.

'It leaves the government between the devil and the deep blue sea,' said Greg Wong Chak-yan, a member of the Harbourfront Enhancement Committee and former head of the MTR Corporation's geotechnical section.

Dr Wong predicts that an appeal by the government - plus a counter appeal - could last up to two years, while producing further 'cogent and convincing materials' to show an 'overriding public need' for the temporary reclamation and any new consultations could take two more years.

'If the government launched an appeal against the ruling and won it, they would avoid the lengthy process of producing another set of 'cogent and convincing materials',' he said. 'But whether the government wins or loses in a case in the Court of Appeal, the other party is likely to appeal it.

'If the Court of Final Appeal says: 'OK, the government wins' then they will proceed quickly with considerations about the design and timing and so on. But if they lose, then they will still have to go through all the hurdles of proving an overriding public need and justifying the details of the scheme - and they will have spent two years for nothing.

'However, if the government gives up and surrenders to the court's decision, they will then have to prepare themselves for battle number two: is there an overriding public need and is 8.3 hectares too much? It becomes quite a technical issue - asking engineers whether there is another way to do it.'

The bureau might be able to get everything ready and present it to the public within a few months but the next big question, which would decide when construction work could start, would be whether the Society for the Protection of the Harbour would apply for a further judicial review of the new proposals.

'If they come up with some new specification for the size of the reclamation, the society could say we don't agree with that and we will bring it back to court. And the next argument will be whether there is an overriding public need for additional moorings. I think the project will be held up by a few years. It might be two if the government is lucky.'

Dr Wong said his own view was that zero reclamation for the Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter and surrounding areas - whether temporary or permanent - was not possible.

'So I think that everyone should move on and try to look at these cogent materials and see if they are looking coherent enough and quickly decide on whether they are acceptable or not.'


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