BALANCED but boring, was the verdict given to the Governor's environmental policies, which focused on past programmes rather than new initiatives. While green groups and academics were pleased to see cleaner air and water pushed to the front of the Governor's agenda once more, they expressed disappointment over the lack of vision in other arenas. 'There is not much new in this, but there is a more consistent approach,' said Peter Hills, director of Hong Kong University's Centre of Urban Planning and Environmental Management. 'There is a continuity of charging people for environmental problems. As the Governor said, Hong Kong is well off enough that there is no reason to argue against paying the cost of cleaning up the environment. 'None of this is new though. We've known about these problems for years.' The Governor's promise last year to reduce air pollution by 20 per cent within two years was given a jolt as he restated Government's commitment to its controversial diesel-to-petrol switch for diesel-fuelled taxis and minibuses. Bowen Leung Po-wing, Secretary for the Planning, Environment and Lands Branch, said air quality objectives were on target, and 'with vital public support' the diesel-to-petrol switch would be finalised by next summer. 'The Governor's projection for reducing air pollution is too optimistic,' Friends of the Earth spokesman Cheung Luk-ki said. 'The scheme is still in the consultation stage and there are too many variables which can go wrong. This policy is a big disappointment for us.' The Private Sector Committee on the Environment - a collective of the territory's most powerful companies - expressed dismay over the 'lack of imaginative ways of using market forces and the lack of new initiatives'. 'The benefit to the environment of using the market is very apparent,' group spokesman, Libby Ancrum said. 'It seems the Government's right hand doesn't know what the left is doing. They mention traffic gridlock, but never once see it as an environmental problem when that is so obvious.' Highlighting the Governor's water programmes were the implementation of the final phase of the water control zone for Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island North. The total plan will control the pollution created by 21,000 major polluters. 'Improvement to water does not happen overnight, but we have a plan in place which will dramatically improve our coastal waters,' Environmental Protection Department principal officer Vic McNally said.