Yau pledges not to seek funds for landfill plan during 14-month review
Edward Yau Tang-wah has promised not to seek funding for a proposed extension of the Tseung Kwan O landfill before January 2012, the revised date for work to begin on cutting five hectares off Clear Water Bay Country Park.
The secretary for the environment made the pledge yesterday as lawmakers expressed scepticism over his last-minute concession, announced the night before, to delay the extension work by 14 months. The project was to have begun next month.
Despite the government's apparent compromise, the lawmakers repeated their intention to table a motion - backed by five political parties - on Wednesday to repeal a Chief Executive's order that extends the landfill into the country park. The motion will be submitted by Civic Party legislator Tanya Chan. The ball is now in Legislative Council president Tsang Yok-sing's court. He must rule whether to let the motion proceed.
Yesterday, Yau said the delay would allow officials, legislators and local residents more time to assess the effectiveness of measures to be introduced to minimise odour problems arising from the landfill. 'No funding request will be tabled within the 14 months. And within that period, we will honour our word to co-operate,' he told the lawmakers. He also assured them that they would still have a chance to veto the landfill extension by blocking the funding.
But the legislators fear that, by agreeing to the delay, they may be tacitly giving the project the green light and giving up their disputed power to scrap the order. 'What can we do and what power do we have 14 months later [if] we find the odour problem is not resolved? Can we stop the order by then?' Liberal Party lawmaker Miriam Lau Kin-yee asked.
In the meantime, the legislators are exploring a new option to ensure they have the legal right to reverse a Chief Executive's order.
The legal manoeuvre involves leaving blank the revised start date of 2012 in a government motion, to be filled in by the Chief Executive by another order. The new order will need subsidiary legislation so lawmakers can scrutinise it again.