THE Government has been implicated in a controversial scheme to develop one of Hong Kong's few remaining unspoilt beaches. There was outrage from legislators and environmentalists earlier this month when unauthorised work began on a proposed leisure complex at Sai Kung's scenic Tai Long Wan beach. But villagers now claim the City and New Territories Administration (CNTA) negotiated with private companies to develop the area rather than spend $8 million on a public pier to allow residents better access to their remote homes. The Sunday Morning Post can also reveal that development companies have bought up land at two other coastal villages in the Sai Kung area - Ngong Wo, which faces Wong Chuk Wan, and Pak Lap, on Pak Lap Wan. While it was unclear what developers had in mind for Ngong Wo, the village head at Pak Lap, Lau Dai-gou, said most of their land had been bought up to make way for a private retreat for executives and middle-managers. Mr Lau said the company, Master Choice Development Limited, also had been criticised for attempting to buy Ham Tin village land at Tai Long Wan for a business retreat. The planned development - and the sight of an excavator on the pristine sands - outraged hikers and conservationists and the Government seemed to support their opposition. But Sai Kung District Board members said the Government's contradictory actions have left them perplexed. In November 1993, a proposal to build a public pier at Ham Tin village was submitted by a government inter-departmental working group - a body formed to improve the environment and planning of the New Territories. Sai Kung District Board's environmental improvement committee passed that proposal unanimously. The $8 million project included building a 90-metre long breakwater, a 1,100-square metre pier and platform, and a 200-metre long footpath leading from the pier to the beach. 'We passed the proposal because the villagers had been urging us for years to solve their transport difficulties,' former committee chairman Wan Yuet-kau said. The project, due to begin last August and finish this September, was suddenly suspended without any notice to the District Board. 'It was not until the Tai Long Wan issue came up that I realised the pier project had been suspended,' Mr Wan said. Contrary to the Government's recent sympathy with conservationists, a letter from the CNTA's Sai Kung District Office to villagers said: 'Since a private company is applying for a large project in Ham Tin and the nearby areas from the Government, the pier project will be suspended at this stage'. Mr Wan said the private company's proposed resort development was likely to have included a pier - and would have saved government investment. 'It's very likely when the private company builds a resort there, at the same time they will build a ferry pier to attract people,' Mr Wan said. CNTA Sai Kung District Office spokesman Cheung Kwok-choi said: 'The Government will not build a ferry pier to facilitate a private company for private development. 'We originally proposed to build two piers, one in Ham Tin and one in Sai Wan. Now we'll plan to build a pier in Sai Wan only.' However, he would not say why the CNTA had changed its plans. Ham Tin villagers claim the Government's change of plan has forced them to co-operate with the developers. 'What's the use of building a pier in Sai Wan? It's miles away from here. We still have to climb the hills before we can get a sampan to ride to town,' Tai Long village chief Cham Kwai-shing said. Mr Cham said the Master Choice company had promised to build facilities making transport easier for villagers, and build three-storey villas to replace their old village houses. A spokesman for Master Choice said: 'It's a very sensitive issue now and we don't want to speak at this stage.' The company had no choice but to take any help they could get, he added. Yesterday, environmentalists questioned how sincere the Government was about protecting Hong Kong's few unspoilt public beaches. Conservancy Association chairman Dr Ng Cho-nam claimed the Government had no initiatives aimed at preserving Hong Kong's environment, and called for compulsory public purchase of all 'sensitive lands'. 'More and more natural land has become the villas and car-parks of the rich. The Government should have a compulsory purchase [policy] for all the sensitive lands left in the territory, and should develop them into centres of conservancy to educate the public. Mai Po is a precedent,' Dr Ng said. Friends of the Earth demanded the Government should give a clear signal to development companies before it became too late for Hong Kong's countryside.