Hong Kong environment chief plays down fears officials to be vexed by country park development

Claims relevant agencies and bureaus would have to ‘exercise their duty’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 February, 2017, 8:03am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 February, 2017, 8:02am

The city’s environment chief has played down concerns that conservation authorities would be put in a difficult position helping the government identify sites within country parks in which development could be considered.

Environment secretary Wong Kam-sing said the relevant agencies and bureaus would have to play their “respective roles” and “exercise their duty”.

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He was responding to statements made by his boss, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who last month claimed he had asked the relevant authorities – including the environmental protection department – to study suitable sites on the fringes of protected country parks for possible residential development.

In mid-January, Leung during his final policy address floated the controversial idea that peripheral areas of country parks with low ecological value could be used to build public flats and non-profit-making homes for the elderly. In exchange, he said, more areas of high ecological value could be designated or folded into the parks.

Development and environmental bodies have their respective roles ... and the objective is to achieve a balance
Wong Kam-sing, environment minister

“Different government departments and bureaus have their respective responsibilities,” Wong said on Sunday. “Development and environmental bodies have their respective roles ... and the objective is to achieve a balance in society [between housing and development].”

“Different bureaus and departments will participate in one way or another to support the sustainable development of Hong Kong,” he added.

The environment chief emphasised that Leung had only brought up the idea for discussion within the community and that both the government and public could help formulate “objective criteria” to determine what areas were worth considering.

Wong stressed the government had actually been expanding country parks and was in the process of designating 500 hectares of Robin’s Nest, near Sha Tau Kok, as the newest one.

Green groups and conservationists believe country parks are inviolable ecological, recreational and educational assets and that opening up any for development would set a bad precedent.