New authority planned to steer growth along harbour

Views to be sought on proposal to form an authority for waterfront's development

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2012, 4:18am

The government will consult the public early next year on forming a harbour planning authority to steer development along the waterfront, after a proposal to turn the Causeway Bay typhoon shelter into a world-class yacht racing facility stalled.

The typhoon shelter proposal, presented to the Harbourfront Commission by the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club yesterday, calls for turning the former public cargo-handling area next to the club and part of the new waterfront areas in Wan Chai into a "race village" capable of holding internationally significant yacht races.

But the concept was snubbed by some commission members, who said such a proposal would require the influence of an authority better able to co-ordinate government departments.

A source close to the government said the commission, which had been asked by the former development chief Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, now chief secretary to study the setting up of a harbour authority, had reached a consensus on how it should be formed and run.

"The commission submitted a report to the government a few weeks ago," the source said. A public consultation was expected to start by early next year.

Through this consultation, the government and commission members hope to clear up public worries about the authority's future operations, including the way it will engage the private sector on using harbour areas.

Commission chairman Nicholas Brooke told the South China Morning Post in April that such an authority could offer consortiums long leases to revitalise waterfront areas without asking them to pay huge land premiums. He added that the authority would be self-financing after an injection of seed capital that could run into billions of dollars.

About 70 per cent of the 73-kilometre Victoria Harbour waterfront is owned by the government, but the lack of a senior management body to co-ordinate the work of departments has been blamed for uninspiring designs and a dearth of activities for the public.

In the case of the yacht club's proposal, apart from the controversial idea of reclaiming land for a breakwater, commission members said they could not simply endorse the proposal as they did not know the overall plan for the harbour area.

"While the Planning Department has no planning control over the water, the Marine Department only regulates water transport service," said member Vincent Ng Wing-shun. "Any development requires an authority to look at all the complexities - for example, if the idea overlaps with activities proposed in other areas and whether the proposed location will affect water traffic."