Don’t waste our money on Disney, give us waterfront parks for all

How come we can pony up for failing theme park but can’t afford five promised waterfront parks that will bring much needed green space?

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 November, 2016, 4:06am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 November, 2016, 4:23am

Hong Kong Disneyland is seeking to boost business with a HK$10.9 billion expansion – more than half of which will be funded by taxpayers – featuring, in a global first, zones based on themes from its blockbuster Frozen and Marvel Superhero films.

SCMP, November 23

 

I had my sister and her husband over recently for a visit and took them to both HK Disney and Ocean Park. Their verdict: Ocean Park every time, Disney isn’t even in the same league.

I mention it because I have yet to meet anyone who thinks differently.

It should not be surprising that the Disney Park is losing money again after briefly sticking its nose up out of the red. Leave alone the competition emerging everywhere in the mainland, its amusements are tired and dated.

Thus to perk itself up with a fresh look, it will ... do the same old thing – a bigger plaster and paint fantasy castle of 1930’s provenance (you can only look at it) and new fairground rides based on 1950’s comic book themes of men in bizarre costumes throwing impossibly heavy things at each other. Hollywood has run completely out of ideas.

But if that’s what turns Disney’s crank, fine by me, let Disney have it. My objection is that Commerce Minister Greg So Kam-leung says legislators should look at the big picture and prioritise a spending request of more than HK$5 billion for our government’s share of the project.

So let’s talk about that number 5, in this case five harbour waterfront sites that were to be turned into public promenades and parks but never got past the stage of goods vehicle parking lots because we purportedly just don’t have the money to give our own people some green space in the most crowded parts of the city.

These we-promise-to-make-them-parks-for-you sites are located in (1) Cha Kwo Ling, (2) To Kwa Wan, (3) Hung Hong, (4) Quarry Bay and (5) Sai Ying Pun. I have the list courtesy of that noted planning activist, Paul Zimmerman.

The clean-up and greenery work for these parks will cost us a good deal less than HK$5 billion and bring us much more direct benefit than amusing mainland tourists on a Lantau reclamation. What about it, Greg? Give us those waterfront parks first and then we can talk about primping up that loser of a Disney Park.

Taxpayers to pay more than half of HK$11 billion cost for Frozen and Marvel superhero attractions to boost Hong Kong Disneyland

On a larger theme, what hopes does Greg really have of renewing a tsunami of mainland tourists to Disney when their economy is slowing down, when the yuan is plummeting against the US dollar linked HK dollar and when they have ever more amusement alternatives at home? This is pushing against a rope.

And why does he make so much of creating up to 8,000 jobs (Yes, 8,000, he says. And I’m the King of Kazoowazoo) when our unemployment rate is already at a rock-bottom 3.4 per cent? Go back home to Canada if you want to do something about joblessness, Greg. It’s not a problem here.

We talk of tourism being a pillar of our economy but it’s not really so.

The goods tourists buy are all imported and what’s left of what they spend is mostly funnelled to a narrow and disproportionately foreign lobby of hotelkeepers, retail landlords and airlines. The jobs they create are almost all menial ones.

Let’s have those waterfront parks first.