Kai Tak, Tsim Sha Tsui and the waterfront along the northern shore of Hong Kong Island will be the first areas to be revamped by the harbour authority that will be formed by June next year, the South China Morning Post has learned.
The details emerged after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said in his policy address on Wednesday that he would back the establishment of an authority with financial support.
Turning the existing Harbourfront Commission, which only has an advisory role, into a much more powerful authority is likely to transform Victoria Harbour.
The harbour is seen by some as boring and inaccessible. A new authority is likely to make it more vibrant and pedestrian-friendly, with a mix of more land and water-based activities.
The need for a harbour authority had been discussed for almost 10 years. The new body will plan, design and manage the waterfront instead of leaving the task to various departments, which have often failed to deliver improvements.
In March, the government will begin a public consultation on establishing the authority, which will replace the Harbourfront Commission, a proposal that the previous administration set aside.
The commission's consultation period, which is backed by the government, has been extended from three to six months, the commission's chairman Nicholas Brooke said, to engage more stakeholders, including the 11 district councils.
"Now the major hurdle is cleared," Brooke said in an interview with the Post yesterday. "It is a very important step. It gives momentum to what we have been trying to achieve."
He believed that priorities should be given to the waterfront at Kai Tak, Tsim Sha Tsui and the northern shoreline of Hong Kong Island, covering Quarry Bay and North Point.
On Wednesday, Kai Tak was highlighted in the chief executive's maiden policy address, in which the tourism developments at the tip of the former runway were described as a "Kai Tak fantasy". It says on top of recreation facilities, the area, where the new cruise terminal is located, can be turned into an "edutainment" destination, reflecting Kai Tak's unique aviation, maritime and transportation history.
Brooke said the new authority was likely to supervise the project, which would be developed under a public-private partnership. It means the government provides land and the developer builds the facilities, including a tower to enable visitors to enjoy a 360-degree view.
"It's the best location in Hong Kong to see the harbour in totality. We need to look at how to draw the audience to the end of the runway and how to provide a platform for the public to view the harbour," he said, adding the helipad planned at the tip of the runway could be incompatible with the tourist hub.
Another major project, according to Brooke, will cover areas around the Tsim Sha Tsui ferry pier and the clock tower, extending to the redevelopment of the New World Centre. He said it would need a holistic approach.
He also hoped that the authority would realise a plan to install a boardwalk beneath the Island Eastern Corridor, allowing the public to get closer to the harbour, but progress has been delayed for years.
It is understood that the authority, with statutory status, will be endowed with billions of dollars, resembling the business model of the arts hub authority.
Brooke sees it as an opportunity to reunite Hong Kong people. "It can be an initiative to give some sense of belonging and ownership, bonding the community together," he said.