Bit by bit, we're moving from saving to enjoying the harbour

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 March, 2010, 12:00am

The Society for Protection of the Harbour appreciates your excellent editorial ('A missed opportunity to protect our harbour', February 22).

While more could have been done by the now defunct Harbourfront Enhancement Committee over the past five years, to be fair to its hard-working and dedicated members - to whom Hongkongers owe a debt of gratitude - I must point out that the committee had some meaningful achievements.

It helped to cut down drastically the size of the government's reclamation projects, including saving Kowloon Bay from total destruction. It promulgated the Harbourfront Planning Principles which, if complied with, will both save the harbour from excessive reclamation and give Hong Kong an outstanding harbourfront.

Further, it persuaded the government to reduce the intensity of development on the Central reclamation scheme from 9.24 million sq ft of gross floor area to 4.6 million sq ft (including Tamar). Still more needs to be done, of course.

The importance of the Harbourfront Enhancement Committee - and the harbour commission that it proposed setting up - is that at least the government is officially committed to listen to the views of the community.

Our society has for many years been advocating a harbour authority similar to the Sydney Harbour Development Authority, which enjoys statutory powers.

However, passing the necessary legislation will take some time.

For now, the best measure would be to have this proposed new harbour commission as a transitional measure towards the ultimate goal of a harbour authority, which should be formed as soon as is practicable.

Our society has never been radical, and has always aspired to be practical.

We are not giving up our role as 'guardian' of the harbour, but we recognise that the focus is now shifting from harbour protection to harbour enjoyment.

Now that the harbour is reasonably safe from destruction by reclamation, the government and everyone else in Hong Kong should strive to plan and design the waterfront so that the harbour can be enjoyed from the viewpoints of environmental protection, the public's gratification and economic benefits for Hong Kong - in that order of priority.

Having fought the government for 15 years to save the harbour, our society urges everyone now to take a positive approach and move forward in the interests of Hong Kong and our future generations.

It would be wrong to sterilise the harbour and the harbourfront; both should be sensitively and sensibly planned for the good of all.

Hopefully the proposed harbour commission will comprise the right people, who will truly and ably represent the people of Hong Kong.

Winston K.S. Chu, adviser, Society for Protection of the Harbour