Kaohsiung sets a fine example in harbourfront rejuvenation

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 April, 2009, 12:00am

Someone from our government should take a weekend trip to Kaohsiung, Taiwan, to see how waterfront property can be redeveloped into true open space at a minimum of cost. I used to live in Kaohsiung when its Love River was foul and smelled bad and there was practically no open harbour space. It was a very ugly city then.

That has all changed now. I have just returned and am absolutely stunned by the change. The Love River is clean with tourist boats in abundance plying its waters. Both sides of the river, for several kilometres, have been tastefully developed into parks (and no, not everything is covered in concrete). The pathways and bridges are beautifully illuminated at night, providing a gorgeous playground that the whole city obviously enjoys.

This is not all. Kaohsiung, being a large port city, has a tremendous amount of harbour space which has gradually fallen into disuse with changing economic circumstances.

Some intelligent people in their government have opened up all of this space. With artful lighting schemes and simple structures such as benches and public toilets, these formerly unused, ugly waterfront spaces are now huge tracts of open land where Kaohsiung's population and tourists come together especially at night.

Designated cycle tracks run uninterrupted for several kilometres, allowing people to ride at all hours free from worry about road traffic. I did not see any new housing estates, government offices, or any private development apart from one shopping mall along the river and harbourfront. There's so much open land that finding a quiet place is never a problem. When was the last time someone could say that about Hong Kong's harbour space?

Don't Hongkongers deserve some open areas other than congested, nightmarishly overdeveloped Tsim Sha Tsui? Don't the hardworking citizens of this city deserve somewhere to sit and enjoy pleasant harbour breezes and see a star or two?

There's plenty of harbour space here too, but of course opening it would require the government to rein in its greed. If Kaohsiung's politicians can do it why can't Hong Kong's?

James Warren, Wong Tai Sin