Carrie Lam

Breathe new life into our harbour

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 June, 2015, 4:33pm


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How to make better use of the city's harbour front has long been on the government agenda. Much has been said over the past decade but little has been done. As time goes by, improving the harbour front risks becoming a cliche or a slogan to appease people fighting for better planning and conservation. Such a passive approach does not do justice to our harbour, which is unquestionably the city's icon, heritage and greatest natural asset.

Pivotal to any improvement is the establishment of a statutory authority to centralise management and planning. The existing regime, in which responsibilities are scattered across different government departments, has proved to be ineffective and bureaucratic. However, the idea of a separate body with real power has been repeatedly rejected by officials as unnecessary. That is until last year, when development minister Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor promised to revisit the proposal and put forward concrete recommendations for the next government to consider.

Thankfully, the opportunity is not far away. The change in leadership in July has opened the window for turning talk into reality. It is encouraging to hear that chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying supports the idea of establishing an authority to oversee harbour management and development. This is one of the few objectives that the public faithfully rallies behind without much debate. Flanked by a wall of skyscrapers, our Victoria Harbour is as scenic as any others in the world. But unlike Sydney, Vancouver and Boston, ours lacks vibrancy. Over the years, reckless reclamation risked reducing our harbour into a channel; while insensitive planning and development have made the shoreline increasingly inaccessible to the people. The justifications for a statutory harbour authority are plentiful. What we lack is a strong political will to lift the proposal from the drawing board and fill in the details. It is time to breathe new life into the harbour.