• Thu
  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 6:24pm
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 July, 2014, 1:21am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 July, 2014, 1:21am

Hong Kong will get its third runway by hook or by crook


Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.

The 30-day consultation period for the environmental impact assessment for the third airport runway is over and all that is needed now is for the Environmental Protection Department to apply its rubber stamp.

The assessment report will next be scrutinised by Anissa Wong Sean-yee in her capacity as director of environmental protection. She also wears another hat - permanent secretary of the Environment Bureau, where her role is to advance government policy.

There is clearly a conflict of interest here. It is hard to imagine that her career will be advanced by knocking back environmental impact assessments of favoured government projects. The last report to be rejected was in 2000 when the director of environmental protection, Robert Law, reviewed the Kowloon-Canton Railway's Lok Ma Chau spur line.

In those days, the director of environmental protection was a qualified environmental scientist and the role of permanent secretary of the Environmental Bureau was held by a career bureaucrat.

When Law retired, the government swiftly put a stop to independent thought being applied to environmental impact assessments and the permanent secretary and director roles were combined. This ploy of downgrading expertise within government departments has occurred elsewhere, notably with respect to the government's archives and records.

Given the current political climate, it is not hard to believe that it is no accident that the government's records are shambolic and unlikely to be of much use to anyone hoping to construct a historical account of the early days of one country, two systems. It is therefore hardly surprising that since the Hong Kong-Macau bridge assessment, public confidence and trust in the assessment process has declined.

It is interesting to see that the runway assessment report concludes the section on air quality with the observation: "In view of the above assessment findings, it can be concluded that operation of the project will not result in adverse residual air quality impacts."

This conclusion is strikingly different from a report produced a few years ago by the Airport Authority's own consultant, Ove Arup, which admitted that the runway would struggle to meet Hong Kong's latest air quality standards, which are a legal requirement.

The consultants' report says "emissions from aircraft can only meet the standard by reducing the capacity of the new runway by some 60 per cent".

Tung Chung suffers from some of the worst air pollution in Hong Kong, and the situation is hardly going to improve once trucks and buses start rumbling across the bridge to Macau.

The air quality standards for these projects are supposed to be legally binding. So the authors of these reports have to fudge their findings by trickery with "modelling".

Hong Kong will have its third runway by hook or by crook.


Annells court affair

Readers have been asking what is happening to the Deborah Annells case since it appears to have gone quiet. Annells is the founder and former chief executive of AzureTax, which specialised in arranging the tax affairs of expatriates. She is remanded in jail and faces 55 counts of theft and fraud involving more than HK$36 million. She has also been charged doing an act tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice. This relates to using a false document to obtain a variation of bail at a court hearing on April 11. Annells has applied for legal aid and her assets are being assessed to see if she is eligible. She is due to appear in court next month.


Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com


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This article is now closed to comments

Rimsky Yuen to become Chief Justice of Hong Kong as well as retaining his current position as Secretary for Justice
... same thing as combining EPD & ENB positions
Shocking state of (FIX) affairs
I fly to Seattle in the US regularly and there is a system there that HK can consider adopting. When flying via Vancouver, I can pass thru US immigration and customs in the Vancouver airport and transit to Seattle as a domestic flight. We could build a HK terminal at the Shenzhen airport complete with customs and immigration control and then transit people to HK via bus (or rail). Another benefit of this approach is the many narrow bodied aircraft now servicing remote Chinese cities from HK could be based in SZ.
There is no shortage of runway capacity in the PRD. All PRD airports should be planned collectively to make the best use of resources and stop this pointless competition on passenger or freight volumes.
John Adams
Mr Winn: your article on the 3rd runway is indeed well written .I fully agree with your main point re CLK-3
Also (seems like you) I suspect some govt collusion
(as if we have not had enough govt collusion these past few months / years / decades ... is anyone NOT eating at the same pie ? ! )
It has been in such practice for decades for transiting through Vancouver to Seattle.
For the interested group including HK government, such fact isn't not within their knowledge. It is more to be avoided and hushed.
The multi-billions dollars in pouring concrete must be done in keeping the concrete plants in Hong Kong which mostly are subsidiaries of local property developers prosper. You think CY Leung has an upper hand to serve Hong Kong public? I still will wait for the Central Government to intervene.
Sorry Howard the only person who cares about the Annells case is you; this and your continued climate change denial diatribes severely undermine the generally high quality of your reporting
Far from being diatribes, Howard's reports on climate change are based on observational evidence and not, as you alarmists rely on, inaccurate and incomplete computer models that cannot even match reality.
I am sure the persons who allegedly lost their life savings would be interested
more importantly it seems there is little control of this industry here
I wonder with billions of dollars if it is better to spend on a new runway or reform our education system and upgrade health services? The reality is that any big money spent by government some individuals are personally greatly to be benefited. That is to say collusion between government and those beneficiaries is and has been a reality chiseled in the way of our life in Hong Kong.
May be let us build not only the third but the fourth or even the fifth runway. There is a silver lining over the dark polluted cloud that Hong Kong can also claim to be the world’s aviation hub if not of China where transitory or destination passengers could shop at the airport mega shopping mall to come. Build them and they will come. Call it FlynShop.
I am just letting the cat out of the bag of the true reason stated behind door why we need our third runway.


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