FRIENDS of the Earth has accepted $135,000 from the land developer it has been battling over a proposed luxury housing and 18-hole golf-course complex at Mai Po. The green group approached Henderson Land more than a year ago for money to help sponsor an environmental education conference in Guangzhou, which it announced yesterday. Friends of the Earth has been fighting Henderson since it first announced its $2 billion proposed development on the edge of the delicate Mai Po Marsh Reserve and wetland area in 1990. The group's director, Mei Ng Fong Siu-mei, said she saw no conflict of interest. 'It is difficult to find sponsors who are entirely environmentally benign,' Ms Ng said. 'By involving them in this way we initiate them in the first step of becoming green. 'At least they become involved in the process of looking at the issues. 'It is one way we can make a difference.' The conference is co-organised by Friends of the Earth and the Guangzhou Environmental Science Association. It is the first international environmental education conference to be held in China. Officials from across China and international environmental experts will attend the three-day event. The $400,000 cost has been split between three sponsors; Hong Kong China Gas, Hong Kong Ferry and Henderson Land. 'I support the conference because I admire Mei's dedication to her work, not especially because it is Friends of the Earth,' Henderson executive director Wan Ma-yee said. 'It is no big deal. 'If they continue to attack us that is fine, as long as it is on fact and values, not on a personal level. 'They have been fighting us over the development, but they are not well informed.' Henderson has gone to extreme lengths to convince both the Government and the public that its Mai Po development will be a prototype green community. The company offered to build a bird sanctuary and employ non-chemical pest controls on its golf range. Despite these provisions, the deal has been bogged down in red tape. The Town Planning Board twice rejected the proposal, before Henderson won an Appeal Board hearing. But, in an almost unheard-of turnabout, the Appeal Board decision is now in the Attorney-General's office awaiting judicial review. Ms Ng said it would be impossible for environmental groups to function in Hong Kong if they accepted money from only green companies. 'It took 18 months to organise this conference in China,' Ms Ng said. 'There are Chinese [industrial] polluters at the conference who will be learning about how to become more environmentally friendly. That is the message we want to get out and we can do it through meetings like this.'