Legislators yesterday said they backed proposals to turn Sai Kung into the SAR's 'leisure garden', after officials said the plan would balance development and the environment. The Southeast New Territories Development Strategy Review, announced by the Government last month, is a draft plan for turning the region into a major recreation and tourism centre. Officials estimate that by 2016, the area could be visited by 200,000 tourists a year, compared with 60,000 now. Under the plan, golf courses, resort hotels, heritage trails and water sport centres will be developed, and more than 500 hectares of new country parks and 2,800 hectares of marine parks created. Briefing lawmakers at the Legco panel on planning, lands and works, Deputy Secretary for Planning and Lands Patrick Lau Lai-chiu said the Government would strive to develop the area's tourism potential while preserving the environment. Although they supported the proposal without a vote, legislators raised questions over whether the increase in visitors would spoil the area's natural beauty. They also said Sai Kung's location and limited access routes could be a drawback. One legislator also warned that encouraging water sports could prove tempting for mainland pirates. Wong Yung-kan, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, said the unauthorised entry of mainland boats into Hong Kong waters had been rising and tourists could be at risk from criminals. The proposal is under public consultation and the Government will report to Legco again in the middle of the year.