Giant butterfly sculpture causes flap in Tsuen Wan district

Councillors query HK$1.5 million construction cost and suggest greater consultation for this and another HK$1.59 million unusual landmark

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 May, 2013, 7:17am

The preparation work for building two contentious district landmarks has started, despite widespread public criticism of them being too costly and even becoming eyesores.

Opposition against the two projects - a HK$1.59 million statue on Soy Street endorsed by Yau Tsim Mong district council and a HK$1.5 million giant butterfly at Chuen Lung to grace the slopes of Tai Mo Shan - has become so strong that some district councillors called for a public consultation to see if the plans needed changing.

The butterfly statue was endorsed by the Tsuen Wan district council in February last year, which also spent HK$766,000 of public money to build a goose statue in Sham Tseng in honour of its famous roast goose dish.

The district council originally planned to spend another HK$500,000 to light the goose statue, but project proponent and councillor Chan Wai-ming sought to scrap his own plan in February. In January, the goose statue came under fire as critics said it cost too much to install and "looked more like a duck". Chan said he gave up the lighting plan because of the public outcry, as well as technical concerns and maintenance costs.

He also indicated that he had learned a lesson. "I think the HK$1.5 million [butterfly] plan is too expensive, and there should be broader public consultation on the project," Chan said.

Chan's district council colleague and lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun also wondered why the Chuen Long project cost this much. "I will raise questions in the district council, because I believe we can do it with a HK$200,000 to HK$300,000 budget," Tien said.

In Yau Tsim Mong, the district council is set to erect a bronze-coloured statue by February next year. The five-metre-tall sculpture, which symbolises harmony, originated from a plan in 2008 to build traditional Chinese arches on both ends of the Sai Yeung Choi Street shopping area to attract tourists. But last year the district council decided to install the statue on the junction of Soy and Sai Yeung Choi Streets instead, as it was found to be technically more feasible.

Despite outrage from internet users and owners of at least two nearby shopping malls earlier this year, the district council remained determined to carry on with the project. In a meeting in March, Chan Siu-tong, chairman of the council's district facilities management committee, emphasised that "there was nothing wrong in our procedures … and since I couldn't see any opposition among councillors, we will not make changes to the plan."

However, district councillor Chan Wai-keung worried that pushing through the project could leave room for a repeated controversy in the future.

"I hope there can be roadshows, questionnaires or even focus groups for the residents to make themselves heard," Chan Wai-keung said. He added that it was not enough for the government to send a dozen letters to owners of nearby buildings, in what they called a "supplementary consultation".

Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong's councillor Chris Ip Ngo-tung agreed that consultation could be improved, but since the project had been duly approved, "it was hard to overturn it".