Hotel approval leaves room for questions
Despite the 151 objections - out of the 158 public responses submitted - and opposition from 14 district councillors, it came as no surprise that the Town Planning Board rubber stamped the application to convert a single family residence at Lugard Road on The Peak to a hotel ("Hotel plan for home on Peak approved", September 7).
It now appears routine that the board foregoes its duty to scrutinise applications in the public interests of health, safety, convenience and general welfare, and instead relies on the Planning Department's recommendations ("Planners wave through heritage hotel plan for Peak", September 6). Any vehicles travelling along the narrow and winding Lugard Road represent a danger to the large, and growing, number of local hikers and tourists that enjoy this splendid scenic route.
Regarding safety and convenience, have board members ever walked along Lugard Road? And when it comes to health, the septic tank soak-away system means that Lugard Road and the country park below the property will become part of the leaching field for hotel sewage.
Your editorial ("Digging a hole for themselves", September 8) takes the Environmental Protection Department to task on landfill leaks; this hotel septic tank could similarly cause a "big stink".
It raises issues of environmental impact, violation of departmental standards, and slope stability above our city's congested high-rises; but the department has astonishingly remained silent.
Your September 7 report which says that the developer is controlled by the brother of Edward Yau Tang-wah, the Chief Executive's Office director and former secretary for the environment, should raise more than eyebrows.
Roger Emmerton, Wan Chai
Doubts raised about validity of survey
On Sunday, I received a call from the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Centre Ltd for a survey about people's perception of the performance of Legco and Hong Kong's political parties.
However, I was denied the opportunity to contribute my opinion because I do not speak Cantonese. The survey caller was able to tell me this in English.
A basic principle of statistics is that a sample of a population should be random, and any systematic bias, such as ability to speak a particular language, will invalidate the survey results.
In this case, the result would appear to be that the research centre's statistics ignore ethnic minorities.
The research centre is a subsidiary of the One Country Two Systems Research Institute.
I spoke to a Mr Chan from the centre who informed me that the survey I was unable to participate in was for "internal reference" by the institute.
It has enough resources to make about 20,000 phone calls for the survey, but chooses not to allocate resources for support of other languages, such as English, Putonghua, other Chinese dialects and foreign languages.
Mr Chan emphasised that this survey was not commissioned or funded by the government, but he could not say what the "internal reference" included, such as supporting material for the many consultancy studies performed by the institute for the government's Central Policy Unit.
Can the institute stand by the credo and working principles on its website http://www.octs.org.hk/e_page_aboutus.htm open its research methodology to public scrutiny and explain how this apparent marginalisation of ethnic minorities affects the consultation studies it has prepared for the government?
Allan Dyer, Wong Chuk Hang
Lost moral compass led way to Abbott
In my opinion, Australia jettisoned its reputation as a caring nation when then prime minister John Howard's vilification of asylum seekers proved decisive in winning him the 2001 federal election.
The Tampa Affair became the callous precedent that to this day allows a paucity of moral principles to guide Australia's national discourse on the humane treatment of asylum seekers.
Duelling politicians neglected to appeal to the better side of our natures in the general election campaign.
To gain respite from Labor's fractious infighting, Australians have casually voted into power Tony Abbott, a man with socially conservative views that align with the worst ideology of the US Republican Party.
The prime minister-elect made the repeal of the carbon-trading scheme the centerpiece of his campaign and continues to deny the existence of climate change caused by humans.
I am sure the younger George Bush would be delighted at the elevation of a kindred spirit.
Joseph Ting, Brisbane, Australia
Radio silence over airport betrays public
I have been following with interest letters saying that the Hong Kong Airport Authority is wasting taxpayers' money and empire building.
The letters have also called for an independent body to look into its affairs as it lobbies the government for a substantial sum to build a third runway that may not be needed.
I think an independent survey is definitely needed.
As your correspondent F. Wong has pointed out ("Get airport costs on audit body's radar", September 6), an independent body must be set up to look into criticism of the authority stretching back over a number of years.
As Dora Li remarked ("Airport suffers under rival masters", August 10), so-called studies supporting "more developments" at the airport, including a third runway, have been financed by the authority and I agree with F. Wong that the authority's communication officer has to clarify this issue. Taxpayers deserve answers.
F. Wong also asked how much was paid to airlines as an inducement for them to move from Terminal 1 to the white elephant of Terminal 2. The authority must come clean and supply the facts.
We must have an answer to this and ask that if such money was paid to airlines why was it done? Offering such inducements cannot be seen as normal practice.
The Director of Audit has yet to respond to calls for an audit of the authority. Why is the director not responding in public to these calls?
Environmental groups have expressed their opposition to the building of a third runway at Chek Lap Kok.
Following the so-called Cathay Pacific junket, there are lawmakers who I believe have a conflict of interest.
Those legislative councillors who do not face this dilemma should express their views.
M Lai, Mong Kok
Conflicting views of land 'shortage'
I note that in your editorial ("Housing needs vigorous debate", September 11) you refer to the "land shortage".
However, in his Monitor column, Tom Holland stated the opposite view ("Officials have always hated Hong Kong's country parks", September 10).
Using apparent government data Holland contested the view held by the administration that we are short of land for housing and we need to reclaim the sea or the country parks to solve the problem.
I look forward to someone in government contesting Monitor's statements, through these columns, so we can all understand the facts and consign rhetoric in blogs or other more esteemed columns to their appropriate receptacles.
Jeremy Newton, Happy Valley
Bank on policy of more thrift, less spending
Hong Kong is a prosperous city and most teenagers here enjoy spending money.
However, there is always a risk, given the prevailing consumerism here, that there will be overconsumption.
Many youngsters do not possess good money management skills.
Parents can help by setting a good example and showing their children how they can save money in the bank.
They could also encourage their children to learn more about saving through the financial literacy programme for children, Cha-Ching Money Smart Kids. It teaches children about key money concepts through games and music videos.
Schools can also give talks to students about how to spend money wisely. Teenagers would be encouraged to change their mindset from a spending habit to a saving habit.
Ivy Chan, Tseung Kwan O
Ignorance no excuse for bad manners
Some people say that mainlanders visiting Hong Kong are rude, because they were educated in a different way.
On the mainland you see signs forbidding spitting and littering, but people ignore them.
I have certainly noticed changes with many mainlanders coming here to shop.
In many popular retail areas such as Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay you increasingly see more shops selling designer and other international brands. When I and my school friends go shopping in Sha Tin's New Town Plaza, there is now little of interest there for us.
I do hope mainland visitors will try harder to behave better when shopping.
Fung Pui-shuen, Sha Tin