Slow progress: Hong Kong government still far from decision on setting up statutory harbourfront authority

Development minister Paul Chan says concerns remain about a possible huge financial commitment for a body to replace existing Harbourfront Commission

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2016, 12:10am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2016, 12:13am

Government authorities still have reservations about setting up a much-anticipated statutory body to govern the city’s waterfront development, citing possible huge financial commitments.

Hong Kong’s development minister Paul Chan Mo-po revealed in an interview with the Post that the government had yet to come to a decision about the future governance of the 73km waterfront, which runs next to commercial, industrial and residential areas.

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“Establishing a harbourfront authority means investing a lot of land, and also putting down a very substantial endowment at the beginning,” Chan said.

“I believe the public, including several legislators, also have other concerns, so we have not come to a very definite view on the issue,” he said, adding that the government would have a clearer vision for the way forward by the end of the year.

Harbourfront projects are currently managed by various government bodies and are then put through the existing Harbourfont Commission, which advises the government on its development.

The proposed authority would be able to streamline processes such as planning, construction, operations, governance and promotion in a bid to ensure that red tape does not get in the way of development.

Vincent Ng Wing-shun, a commission member, said he was not disappointed and not surprised either by the government’s stance.

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“We understand that progress is slow and that it takes time, but as long as the government continues in the direction [of setting up an authority], even at an ant’s pace, it’s still tolerable,” Ng said.

In the meantime, the development chief said they hoped to get more resources to focus on “quick-win” harbourfront projects.

Short-term projects have been launched in recent years, including the observation wheel in Central and carnivals and performances at multi-purpose waterfront event spaces.

However, Ng hit back at the government’s suggestion: “We’ve been doing quick-win projects for the past 12 years. The government needs to face this issue with commitment and determination.”