Public unity needed on safeguarding future of harbour

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 October, 2012, 12:53am

Your editorial ("The harbour's rightful owners", October 23) was completely correct.

The rightful owners are the people of Hong Kong. The Protection of the Harbour Ordinance now clearly pronounces that the harbour is "a special public asset and a natural heritage of Hong Kong people".

Yet in practice it is not so. The public has no power over the harbour as there is no official body that represents the interests of the people.

Hence over the past 10 years, Society for Protection of the Harbour has been advocating the creation of a harbour authority that would champion the public interest over both the harbour and harbourfront.

This authority should both protect the harbour and ensure that the first use of the waterfront is for the enjoyment of the harbour by the people. This requires sincere co-operation between the government, the private sector and the public.

Our society fully supports the report and recommendations of the Harbourfront Commission mentioned in your editorial and we have written to the chief executive for his urgent attention. However, there are two caveats.

First, there must be genuine public representation on the harbour authority to ensure a proper balance between government, commercial and public interests.

Second, there is always a great temptation to make use of the harbour as a convenient source of land supply for so-called "good ideas" whether it be for infrastructure, commercial or recreational developments.

It is essential, therefore, for the people of Hong Kong to remain forever vigilant and to ensure that the harbour and harbourfront will be truly used for public needs and not for the private benefits of commercial interests.

We invite members of the public to demonstrate their commitment by coming to support Harbour Day 2012, which the Harbour Business Forum and our society have organised for Sunday, November 4.

The Walk For The Harbour will start at 2pm at the New Star Ferry Pier, Central and the Harbour Carnival will be at the Golden Bauhinia Square, Wan Chai from 2.30 to 5.30 p.m. Everything will be free and all are welcome.

Our society has done as much as it can over the past 18 years. The burden of looking after the harbour and harbourfront should now be taken up by the community.

Where protection of the environment is concerned, do not look over your shoulder for someone else to do the job; there is only you.

Winston K.S. Chu, adviser, Society for Protection of the Harbour