How representative are URA's district advisory committees?
The Development Bureau has said that advisory boards 'may be set up in old communities to involve residents in drawing up redevelopment proposals' ('Advisory boards mooted to involve public in renewal plans', April 2).
Strangely, no mention was made of the fact that there are already six district advisory committees in place, as can be seen from the Urban Renewal Authority's annual report.
These cover Wan Chai, Central and Western, Sham Shui Po, Yau Tsim Mong, Kwun Tong and Kowloon City.
So what have these committees been doing? Nothing, from my experience with regard to the URA/New World Hanoi Road redevelopment, now called The Masterpiece/K11. They scream 'rubber stamp'.
Going back and looking at some old papers, I read that Section 20 of the Urban Renewal Authority Ordinance (Chapter 563) required 'the secretary for planning and lands to consult the public before finalising the urban renewal strategy'. The secretary, in accordance with the ordinance, consulted the public on a draft urban renewal strategy from August 1 to September 30, 2001.
This strategy was issued to the URA and, when 'preparing its draft corporate plan, the URA has to follow the guidelines set out in this document'.
The URA was to establish a district advisory committee in nine target areas. They would advise the authority regarding its urban renewal projects.
These committees were to be appointed by the URA board and the members were supposed to be representative of the local community.
They would include 'owners, tenants, district councils and local non-governmental organisations with an interest in urban renewal'.
Now take a look at the composition of the existing committees.
Four of them do not have a single female member and, on the other two, Wan Chai and Kowloon City, men greatly outnumber women.
Well, the last time I looked around our streets, I saw a lot of women; in fact, in certain age groups, we outnumber men in the community. How many of the members are bona fide local residents?
We are now in 2010, 10 years since the URA was instructed to set up genuine district advisory committees.
The secretary [now responsible] for planning and lands appears to be asleep at the wheel. Section 21(3) of the Urban Renewal Authority Ordinance requires the URA to follow any guidelines set out in the urban renewal strategy.
We must now have an announcement to the effect that the current boys' clubs will be disbanded and advisory committees be installed, as per the stated criteria, with representatives of both genders, different age groups and backgrounds, and a voice for minority residents.
Mary Melville, Tsim Sha Tsui