A district council meeting was left without a quorum yesterday after 18 councillors walked out as the environment minister was about to explain a controversial landfill extension plan.
Eighteen of the 35 district councillors left the special meeting of the Tuen Mun council that was to have heard Secretary for Environment Wong Kam-sing give details of an application for funds to extend the local tip.
The meeting continued as a seminar without the power to make binding decisions.
Councillors said the government was trying to push through the plan - one of three extensions it says are crucial to avoid a waste crisis - without listening to any opinions.
"It's unfair to cram all polluting facilities here in Tuen Mun," said So Shiu-shing, one of those who walked out. "The whole city should shoulder the responsibility of reducing waste. If the government can promise us this, then we can talk."
Councillors want compensation for affected residents, road improvements and a system to reduce household waste.
Chairman Lau Wong-fat called on the government to put the plan on hold until all councillors reached agreement.
But Wong said more waste-management facilities were "necessary and urgent".
"The government has the sincerity to communicate with the Tuen Mun district council," he said after the meeting was adjourned. "The whole city has to understand that the landfill plan has undergone a 10-year discussion. It is necessary and urgent to build these infrastructures."
The government is facing strong opposition to its proposal to expand the Tuen Mun, Tseung Kwan O and Ta Kwu Ling tips until a planned incinerator off outlying island Shek Keu Chau - also a contentious project - is ready.
Wong has said his priority is to get lawmakers' approval for the Tseung Kwan O tip extension and the incinerator, proposals for which will be tabled at the Legislative Council's public works subcommittee next month.
Lau said the government "owed" the New Territories district.
"Tuen Mun has got a lot of obnoxious facilities, including a landfill and a columbarium. It is too much for one single district - out of 18 - to bear over 60 per cent of the city's waste," the lawmaker and Heung Yee Kuk chairman said. "Tuen Mun has been injured enough."
More than 100 members of various groups concerned about the landfill plan massed outside the council offices yesterday to protest against an extension. They gave Wong 2,500 letters opposing the expansion and supporting the use of new technology to build the incinerator.