Funding request for HK$18b Shek Kwu Chau incinerator gets go-ahead

Funding requests for incinerator and landfill extensions get through to final hurdle, despite filibuster and drama in Legco's public gallery

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 May, 2014, 12:37pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 May, 2014, 4:54am

Environment officials have one more hurdle to clear as they seek funding for waste infrastructure plans after lawmakers waded through scores of motions tabled in an attempt to filibuster controversial plans for an incinerator.

Funding requests for the incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau, extensions to the Tseung Kwan O and Ta Kwu Ling landfills and a feasibility study on enlarging the Tuen Mun landfill will go to the Legislative Council's Finance Committee after the incinerator cash was approved by the public works subcommittee yesterday.

Officials hope to have final approval by June 27, before Legco's summer recess begins in July. The government has made waste disposal a priority as the city's landfill sites near capacity, but critics say not enough has been done to reduce waste and increase recycling, while the environmental impact of the incinerator has come under scrutiny.

Lawmakers voted 14-6 in favour of the HK$18 billion funding request yesterday after subcommittee chairman Lo Wai-kwok said he would not accept further amendments. Lawmakers had voted down 67 motions tabled in advance and 20 more put forward at the meeting by three lawmakers opposed to the plan.

"I don't think we have to accept any more new motions as we have already offered enough comments," Lo said in the middle of the meeting.

The lawmakers behind the filibuster - Albert Chan Wai-yip from People Power, Gary Fan Kwok-wai of the NeoDemocrats, and the Labour Party's Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung - made no attempt to stop the vote.

But there was drama in the public gallery, when a woman climbed over the barrier separating the gallery from the chamber below and seemed set to jump into the meeting room, a drop of about five metres. She was overcome by security guards and removed from the building.

She told reporters she objected to building an incinerator on a pristine island, and accused Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying of going back on a pre-election pledge to review the plan.

An Environmental Protection Department spokesman said the landfill and incinerator plans, totalling about HK$29 billion, would be tabled for discussion together in the Finance Committee but voted on separately.

But another filibuster attempt - against a request to fund preliminary work on contentious new-town developments in the northeastern New Territories - has cast doubt on whether the waste plans will be voted on before the summer break.

The subcommittee last week approved HK$2 billion for the Tseung Kwan O landfill after rejecting more than 100 motions.