Striking a balance in harbour project

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 December, 2012, 3:52am

The Society for Protection of the Harbour thanks Commodore Joachim Isler, of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, for his letter ("Yacht club's minor works on harbour serve public need", December 10) voicing his support for our work to protect the harbour.

Over the years, more than half of Hong Kong's world-famous and wonderful Victoria Harbour has been reclaimed for property development and various infrastructural purposes unconnected with the use and enjoyment of the harbour as a harbour.

The Protection of the Harbour Ordinance was therefore enacted to protect the harbour from excessive and unnecessary reclamation, but the ordinance was never intended to stop reclamation altogether.

However, what is left of the harbour is precious and should be used only for the essential needs of the community, such that future generations can still have a harbour to enjoy.

To achieve this goal and to uphold the law, over the past 18 years, our society has had to stand up to the British colonial government, the present Hong Kong SAR government, the Town Planning Board as well as real estate developers and other private interests.

We have shown neither fear nor favour, and we intend to continue to protect the harbour with the same approach.

A sensible and sensitive balance must be maintained between the need to protect and preserve the harbour from unnecessary damage, and yet not sterilising it from proper utilisation and public enjoyment. To achieve this, there must be sincere co-operation among the government, the private sector and the public.

Accordingly, over the past 10 years, our society has been calling for the creation of a harbour authority with statutory powers over the harbour and the harbourfront, and which allows genuine public participation.

We are encouraged that this proposal has now received the support of Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, and we hope that the harbour authority will become established as soon as possible.

The present challenge is for the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club to show through due public consultation that there is a public need so essential that it overrides the importance of the harbour, and that its proposal will serve public interests and not just the private interests of its club and only a small sector of the community.

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