Defaced beach should be protected, board rules
A scenic beach site defaced by massive excavation last year, Tai Long Sai Wan, should be incorporated into Sai Kung East Country Park, a government advisory board ruled yesterday in a nearly unanimous decision.
Recognising the sensitivity of the issue, members of the Country and Marine Park Board said their decision would not infringe on villagers' rights or become a precedent for other country park enclaves.
The decision will set the designation process in motion soon, but it is expected to face opposition. Officials must redraft the country park map, organise a public consultation, deal with objections, and seek consent from the chief executive. No timetable has been set.
Rural leaders have opposed inclusion of the scenic 17-hectare enclave into the park, saying it would hurt what they claim as their traditional rights to small-house development and set a precedent for 77 other country park enclaves in the New Territories and Lantau.
Joseph Sham Chun-hung, assistant director of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, tried to allay rural leaders' fears yesterday by assuring them that not all enclaves were necessarily suitable for inclusion in country parks. 'Every place is different. What we propose for Sai Wan today is tailor-made - considered on the basis of its individual merits,' he said.
Board member Wong Yung-kan, a legislator with the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, was the only opponent. He said the move was unfair to villagers and refused to believe officials' assurances. 'Villagers will lose their rights to do anything with their properties, and what you do now will only intensify the rifts and conflicts between indigenous villagers and urban dwellers,' he said.
In a submission to the board yesterday, the department concluded the enclave had high landscape and aesthetic values and high recreation potential, though its conservation values were only moderate. It also said the village environment, including four hectares of privately owned plots, blended well with the country park, making it suitable for inclusion.
Board member Dr Billy Hau Chi-hang supported the proposal, but was concerned that it might not prevent the excavation that took place last year, when two artificial lakes were formed. Some development is allowed under the Country Park Ordinance.
The number of enclaves within country parks in the New Terriotories and Lantau