'Delaying tactics' over beach
Rural politicians are using delaying tactics to stall the inclusion of a Sai Kung coastal enclave in a country park, government advisory board members claim.
The Country and Marine Parks Board, which advises the government, is pushing for a 16.5 hectare area in Tai Long Sai Wan to be incorporated in the Sai Kung East Country Park as soon as possible.
At a board meeting yesterday, members asked the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department whether there was a deadline to wrap up talks with indigenous villagers, who fear their right to build small houses will be affected by the inclusion.
In response, the conservation department said it would decide by August next year whether the site, which includes a scenic beach that was defaced two years ago, would be designated as part of the park. The Planning Department is also working on a detailed zoning plan to control use of the site and prevent further abuse.
But the Sai Kung District Council - dominated by pro-rural-establishment politicians - refused two weeks ago to support the board's plan to include the site in the park. They want to establish a new working group to resolve the issues, which could make the process much longer.
The council raised concerns over property rights, in particular the construction of small houses on private land. Some council members who favoured protecting the land through zoning instead of country park designation had even demanded vehicular access into the area.
'It has become a conflict between the interests of locals and society. It is foreseeable the conflict will only delay everything,' board member Tik Chi-yuen said.
Some board members see the planned working group as a delaying tactic to stall the protection of country park enclaves.
Board member Dr Billy Hau Chi-hang, a New Territories indigenous villager, was pessimistic about reaching a consensus.
'The villagers won't adjust their bottom line, and their stance will be the same however long you discuss it with them,' he said.
Conservation department director Alan Wong Chi-kong called for patience and sensitivity in dealing with the differences. He said he hoped a mutually acceptable solution could be identified through the working group.
But he stopped short of saying the country park proposal would go ahead regardless of whether a deal could be struck. 'I am taking up this issue personally and I hope we can achieve a win-win deal that can satisfy most people,' Wong said.
Board member Professor Chu Lee-man warned of a worst-case scenario. 'It is getting political and I am worried that it is less a win-win deal than a lose-lose scenario in which those who fail to get what they want will try everything to prevent others from succeeding,' he said.
Conservation department official Joseph Sham Chun-hung said it would take nine to 10 months to designate a country park. If this were to happen by August 2013, the department would have to close talks with the villagers near the end of this year.