Tourism bid to seduce village dragged into park

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2014, 4:16am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2014, 4:57am

New sites for stargazing and camping will turn scenic Tai Long Sai Wan into an eco-tourism destination, according to new management plans.

Lawmakers endorsed the government proposal to fold the enclave into Sai Kung East Country Park late last year amid resistance from villagers and the Heung Yee Kuk, which represents indigenous communities in the New Territories.

But the government hopes the business opportunities will get residents onside. "We would like to promote Sai Wan as an eco-tourism destination and the participation of villagers will be essential," said Franco Ng Kwok-yan, senior country parks officer for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

The plans include turning the northern beach into a campsite, building a sitting-out area on the southern beach and turning old village houses into licensed guesthouses run by villagers.

Woodlands and mangroves would be "enhanced" and a stargazing area would be built.

A new footpath from Chui Tung Au to Sai Wan is also proposed. The current trail into Sai Wan is being blockaded by villagers in protest at being dragged into the country park.

Non-profit organisations will be able to apply for funds for projects through the Environment and Conservation Fund.

The plans were presented to the department's Country and Marine Parks Board yesterday - as members expressed discontent about not being consulted on the fate of six other enclaves - Hoi Ha, Pak Lap, Pak Tam Au and To Kwa Peng, in Sai Kung; So Lo Pun in Plover Cove, and Tin Fu Tsai in Tai Lam.

"Public concern about these enclaves is very high … there should at least be some sort of explanation on why they were excluded," said member Dr Billy Hau Chi-hang.

Dr Man Chi-sum said more debate was needed. But department director Alan Wong Chi-kong said the decision was final.

"We can't just fold any piece of land into country parks based on high ecological value. If this was the case, we'd have to fold Shek O or The Peak into parks, too," Wong said.

Joseph Mo Ka-hung, a Heung Yee Kuk member, urged the department to seek legal advice on how to handle potential resistance in three enclaves still to be incorporated into parks - Fan Kei Tok and Sai Lau Kong in Plover Cove and Nam Shan in south Lantau. The department has said that with no private land ownership, dispute here was less likely.

Paul Zimmerman, representing the Save Our Country Parks Alliance, last night said the department was failing to incorporate enclaves subject to development pressure under the small-house policy. "Whatever the reason, they are failing their job of protecting the country parks."