Yacht village may not be suitable

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 December, 2012, 2:34am

The Hong Kong public should be alarmed by the report ("Watchdog backs yacht race village", November 26) on the proposed "reclamation for a permanent breakwater of about 470 square metres" at the Wan Chai harbourfront put forward by the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club.

The proposal does not seem to have given sufficient regard to the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance and the requirements of the Court of Final Appeal judgment that an overriding public need has to be shown for any proposed reclamation and that there is no reasonable alternative.

The proposal also seems to fall within the danger set out in the December 2003 High Court judgment of Madam Justice Carlye Chu Fun-ling, who warned that Hong Kong may lose its harbour because of ideas perceived to be beneficial and desirable but which might not be for an essential need of the community.

Good and interesting ideas are simply not enough justification.

The judgment was fortified by Government Technical Circular No. 1/04 of 2004 jointly issued by then housing, planning and lands secretary Michael Suen Ming-yuen and then environment, transport and works secretary Sarah Liao Sau-tung, which directed that an overriding public need must be established through public consultation and not merely agreed to by the Legislative Council, as your report suggested.

Society for Protection of the Harbour's concern is that the proposal will take up a substantial portion of the harbour, further narrow it and may set an undesirable precedent. Nevertheless, we shall adopt an open mind as we do not wish the harbour to be sterilised from being enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong, including those who are interested in yachts and boating.

To be helpful and positive, we have promulgated as a guideline the following principle, a full explanation of which will be available on our website www.harbourprotection.org

Under the heading, "Proportionality Principle For Harbour Reclamation", the principle states: "The greater the adverse impact of the reclamation on the harbour, the greater must be the justification; accordingly, having established a public need, in deciding if such need overrides the importance of the harbour, the prime consideration is whether any enrichment of the public enjoyment of the harbour and any enhancement of the environmental, social and economic value of the harbour as a result of the reclamation would justify the loss and damage consequentially caused to the harbour."

Winston Chu Ka-sun, adviser, Society for Protection of the Harbour