4 areas say a firm no to columbariums

Councillors of four districts, including Central and Sha Tin, are adamant about opposing Donald Tsang's plan to have columbariums in every area

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 January, 2013, 4:56am

An initiative from the former chief executive to build columbariums in all 18 districts citywide is in danger of lapsing, after at least four district councils vowed to resist the proposal in their communities.

Councillors of the Kowloon City, Yuen Long, Sha Tin, and Central and Western districts slammed Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's policy objective as problematic and unrealistic.

They suggested it was time for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to review the idea.

The opposition is not universal, however. Construction work has finished in Wong Tai Sin and is expected to start this year in Cheung Chau.

Chan Hok-fung, vice-chairman of the Central and Western district council, criticised as impractical the government's proposal to build a columbarium on Mount Davis Road. "The policy of having a columbarium in each district is itself problematic," Chan said. "You have to look at the situations of different communities. How can you say each of us must have such a facility?"

From 2010 to 2011, the previous government announced 24 potential sites in the 18 areas.

Kwai Tsing was to host three sites, Tsuen Wan, Sha Tin, the Islands and North districts would have two each, and the remaining 13 districts would build one each.

Tsang said at the time that his target was to ensure each district had a columbarium to satisfy local needs, since private facilities could be costly or unlawful, while public ones were running short of space.

The proposal met with great resistance from local communities who did not want urn niches on their doorstep.

Some said the sites were too close to homes.

In November, at least 18 months after the sites were identified, the Food and Health Bureau admitted it was still following up on the plan, including studying the sites' feasibility.

In the four districts where councillors voiced strong objections, the projects had yet to be confirmed.

Pun Kwok-wah, vice-chairman of the Kowloon City council, said the neighbourhood around Cheong Hang Road in Hung Hom, which was among the sites named, was a known black spot for illegal columbariums.

"The government seems to have temporarily shelved its plan after listening to our opinions."

In Yuen Long, the San Tin rural committee was firmly opposed to using a site between San Tam Road and Mai Po Lung Road, council chairman Leung Che-cheung said.

In Sha Tin, two sites were identified in Shek Mun and Fu Shan.

Council chairman Ho Hau-cheung denied that residents were resisting the plan because of a not-in-my-backyard mentality.

"I have reservations about forcefully locating [a columbarium] at a place which is not that good. If we can find one or two sites and build some big facilities with good transport links without causing a nuisance, that's worth investing in."

Ho was referring to two of the government's more successful projects, in Tuen Mun and Northern District.

A bureau spokeswoman said they were awaiting the results of feasibility studies and traffic impact assessments.

She did not say if there were plans to search for other sites or to change the policy objective.