Lawmakers hits out at 'lazy' policy on country parks amid conservation row

DAB's Elizabeth Quat accuses government of putting conservation before villagers' needs

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 November, 2013, 5:13am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 November, 2013, 7:57pm

A lawmaker has accused the government of adopting "lazy policy" by putting conservation in country parks ahead of the needs of villagers.

Regardless of whether an attempt to incorporate Tai Long Sai Wan into the surrounding Sai Kung East Country Park goes through, the government must come up with a better plan to help villagers with livelihood issues, Elizabeth Quat said.

"The government has adopted a lazy policy," said Quat, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. "They have not told villagers how their rights would be safeguarded and this is why they don't trust their plan.

"They should consider how to better utilise and convert unused agricultural land so villagers can run businesses and earn a living."

Environmentalists back the government's plan to bring the enclave and 26 others under the protection of the Country Parks Ordinance, while villagers claim their private property rights are being stripped away.

Quat said an hour-long meeting between the DAB and green groups on the village had reached "common ground" on only one issue - both sides agreed government planning had been poor.

Quat said her party would back a motion by Heung Yee Kuk lawmaker Lau Wong-fat, calling on the government to block the incorporation of the village, but she denied the DAB was "in support of the kuk".

The Save Our Country Parks alliance, a coalition of 14 green groups, said they were "disappointed" with the DAB and urged the part to "respect the prevailing public opinion". They argue the villagers' rights would not be adversely affected by the plan.

The Legislative Council votes on Lau's tabled amendment on December 4.

Meanwhile, green groups yesterday lodged a complaint with the Legco over plans for village houses in Hoi Ha Wan, one of 27 enclaves designated for development in 2010. David Newbery of the Save Our Country Parks alliance said the government's draft zoning plan for the 8.5-hectare site was "fatally flawed".

The 2.5 hectares given over to 84 village houses, under the small-house policy of allocating ancestral land to male indigenous villagers for homes, was based on "desires, not needs".

"The idea that 84 sons of villagers from around the world will be coming back to live in the village is not realistic," he said, referring to complaints that people based abroad who could claim ancestry in the New Territories had built houses under the policy and sold them immediately.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly quoted David Newbery on the number of houses to be built at Hoi Ha Wan. The actual figure should be 84.