Conference speakers say management models in Sydney and Boston show Hong Kong the way to develop harbour An authority with real power to protect Victoria Harbour should be set up, as similar bodies at other cities have proven to be successful management models, speakers at an international conference on the harbour said yesterday. At the EnviroSeries conference sponsored by the South China Morning Post yesterday, overseas experts and officials from Sydney, Boston and other centres shared their own experiences on preserving their own harbours. Sean O'Neill, director of communications at the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, said public participation is the key to the success of harbour planning. Mr O'Neill cited Boston's Big Dig project as a good example. Before the project began - it put a highway underground and replaced it with parks - the authority engaged the public by consulting widely and arranging tours for everyone affected by the project. 'Now instead of having a highway at the heart of Boston, we have a park at the city centre. No one needs to be resettled because of the project,' he said. Peter Alward, the former executive director of Place Management of Sydney Harbour, said it took the New South Wales government six months to draw up the regulatory framework for the creation of the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, and another two years to implement it. He told the delegates the authority had developed and adopted the Place Management and Place Leadership model when coming to grips with the management of all aspects of portions of the Sydney Harbour. Mr Alward said under this model, the authority was charged with protecting the area's cultural heritage while at the same time making the district financially viable. It was responsible for 400 hectares, controlled a $1.36 billion portfolio, looked after 500 tenancies and 83,000 square metres of retail space, and made a $9 billion economic contribution to the state's coffers, he added. 'It is a model that works brilliantly,' he said. 'There are elements in here that may work for Hong Kong. It is tried and tested and is robust.' He also stressed the importance of listening to the community. 'That is really clear when planning your harbour, to be proud of it and everyone will than take ownership of the harbour,' Mr Alward said. Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Permanent Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, said a realistic plan for proceeding with harbour development should be addressed by the government at the cabinet level. 'To have an appropriate institutional arrangement is a very big challenge for the government. It is not a matter the Housing, Planning and Lands Bureau alone can solve. It is a cabinet issue for the entire government.' Mrs Lam also agreed with the suggestion that the Town Planning Board should also have power over the planning of transportation. She also said the public-private-partnership model the government is exploring now could be a solution to how the harbour area can be managed in the future. Andrew Beatty, legal adviser to the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, said if Hong Kong wants to have a vibrant waterfront belonging to the people, it should have an authority that has power over other government agencies. The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority was set up to protect and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of Sydney's inner harbour. It became a model of how a harbour area can be planned, built and managed. The Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands Michael Suen Ming-yeung said the government is committed to making the harbour attractive, accessible and vibrant so that it is a reflection of Hong Kong's unique identity.