Public must benefit from harbourfront management

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 February, 2016, 4:26pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 February, 2016, 4:25pm

Thank you for an excellent editorial (“Right mix needed for city’s harbour”, January 25) and the long-standing support of your newspaper in protecting the harbour which was a key factor in the success of the “Save Our Harbour” campaign.

Now that the government has promised not to further reclaim the harbour, an authority with statutory powers to plan and manage the harbourfront becomes vital. Obviously the use and enjoyment of the harbour depend upon how the harbourfront is utilised.

For the past dozen years, the Society for Protection of the Harbour has been advocating a harbour authority which would ensure the harbour is protected from further abuse whether from reclamation or the discharge of raw sewage; and also that both the harbour and the harbourfront would be enjoyed by the public and protected from ambitious commercial exploitation.

Regrettably, the present government proposal is not a harbour authority but merely a harbourfront authority. Nevertheless it is better than nothing and should be supported, but subject to the following caveat.

Firstly, the authority should enhance the use and public enjoyment of the harbour as a harbour while observing the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance.

Secondly, there must be genuine public participation. Therefore the appointment by the chief executive of all its members is questionable as it raises the spectre that, like other public bodies whose members are similarly appointed, the authority will be in the government’s pocket.

Thirdly, while commercial activities are essential to make the harbourfront people-friendly, the clear objective and primary purpose must nevertheless be for the enhancement of the harbourfront for the benefit of the public and not for the profits of developers and investors, nor for raising government revenue through land sales and leases.

Finally, the authority must comply with the judicial pronouncement of former chief justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang that “What remains of Victoria Harbour is precious and must be protected and preserved at all costs.”

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