Residents fear for future of village over parking problems

Once a busy fishing port, the seafood restaurants and stores now rely on visitors

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 May, 2014, 4:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 May, 2014, 4:09am

Business has been on the up for the small fishing village at Lei Yue Mun over the past two years, but that may all disappear along with the parking spaces, one restaurateur and fifth-generation resident warns.

Wong Shing, 66, joins a chorus of voices against the impact of the government's plan to turn the car parks into flats, especially as fishing has long ceased to be the villagers' main livelihood.

"Our business now is not from the locals, it's from tourists, or those driving in to come here," he said. "It's important for the government to listen to [stakeholders' views]."

Wong said his restaurant has been around for more than 30 years. The last two years have been good, buoyed by an increase in mainland tourists and locals driving in for seafood. But reducing parking facilities looked set to badly damage trade, he said.

Growing up on a boat, Wong said the Lei Yue Mun typhoon shelter used to accommodate more than 100 boats back in the 1950s and 1960s, with fishermen and their families living on board their shrimp trawlers and fishing vessels.

Most moved to dry land as the fishing trade died out, he said. "Sometimes, I remember those days fondly. It was a good life on the boats," he said. "But we all need to make money to survive."

Tourism and seafood dining are now the main income of most villagers, with the number of moored fishing boats reduced to about 10 to 20.

Most residents were born and raised in the area, said Choi Ko-wing, who operates three businesses.

Eighty per cent of the store and restaurant operators owned their property, but needed to pay land tax, Choi said.

"If the government needs to make changes to the area, there must be public consultation - but it didn't happen at all in this case," he said.