It was unreasonable for the Environmental Protection Department director to approve an impact-assessment report made by his own department on the proposed building of a massive offshore waste incinerator, a court heard yesterday.
Barrister Hector Pun Hei made the criticism on behalf of a Cheung Chau resident, who brought a judicial review against the HK$23 billion project on Shek Kwu Chau, an island south of Lantau.
In the Court of First Instance, Pun, one of the lawyers representing 66-year-old Leung Hon-wai, said it involved a conflict of interest when the director granted the permit that allowed the proposal to go ahead.
"It is a breach of natural justice to make a person a judge in his own cause," Pun said.
Leung is challenging decisions by the Town Planning Board and the director of the Environmental Protection Department, which cleared the way for the incinerator's construction. He is one of four people who lodged a judicial challenge. His was selected to proceed and the other applicants will be bound by the decision.
Johnny Mok SC, for the government, rejected a criticism by Leung's lawyers that the environmental-impact assessment report did not meet the requirements specified in a technical memorandum and a study brief from the administration.
On Wednesday, Leung's lawyer contended that the report was substandard, because the department deferred looking at how it would remedy the permanent loss of a 31-hectare marine habitat of high ecological value. That problem was to be considered in a supplementary study.
Yesterday, Mok said that while the department was not allowed to make another environmental-impact report, a supplementary study that sought to help with the "technical implementation" of the measures must be permitted.
Mok said the environmental-impact assessment already included, as required, a study on the feasibility and effectiveness of establishing a 700-hectare marine park to make up for the loss of the existing habitat, which was home to finless porpoises.
The supplementary study would deal with the marine park's ecological profile, extent and location.
"It would be strange if there was no further study," Mok said. "The fact that a small corner of a vast stretch of water where finless porpoises swim is cut out doesn't mean a massive loss. You have to consider the bigger picture."
He also said it was wrong for the other side to suggest that the department did not conduct any studies on the establishment of the marine park, citing reports from various departments from 2002 and last year.
"This is a careful regime designed to protect the valuable species," Mok said, referring to the creation of the marine park.
The hearing continues today before Mr Justice Au Hing-cheung.Topics: Shek Kwu Chau Lantau Environmental Protection Department