The Heung Yee Kuk has proposed setting up a conservation fund - partly financed by the proceeds of land premiums - to settle land disputes in the New Territories involving landowners and developers. The vice-chairman of the indigenous villagers' body, Cheung Hok-ming, said the funds could be used to address conflicts arising from land zoning and ecological conservation. 'The kuk and the landowners have been demonised and badmouthed for a long time and accused of not supporting protection of the environment,' Mr Cheung said. 'This has to be clarified after the kuk, political parties and the green groups sat down and achieved a consensus on setting up a conservation fund.' Mr Cheung, also a legislator with the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, raised the suggestion yesterday ahead of tomorrow's motion debate on a new nature conservation policy. He said the idea had been well received by some green groups. The kuk has criticised the conservation policy, which aims to conserve 12 sites, for favouring developers and sacrificing the interests of minor landowners. The public-private partnership model allows limited development - at a scale agreed among developers, landowners and the government - on less sensitive parts of the 12 sites while conserving the remaining areas. Under the kuk's proposal, some proceeds from the development of sensitive ecological sites would be set aside to form the fund and the government could match it. The government has received six development proposals for the New Territories including some that might require developers to pay land premiums. 'The fund can resolve unnecessary disputes ... part of it can also be used to rent the land if the site is zoned to freeze development,' said Mr Cheung. He said a conservation fund could also help prevent eco-vandalism by disgruntled people affected by a development. 'A small proportion of people might not be irrational if there is such a fund, it might resolve the conflicts,' he said. Asked if the fund should be used to buy out the ecological sites, Mr Cheung said that issue may be discussed in the future. Alan Leung Sze-lun, a senior conservation officer of the World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong said that in principle they supported the idea of a fund that could be used to manage ecologically important sites. He added that the $5 million that had already been assigned by the government to support proposals for ecologically sensitive sites was too small for sustainable operation. Cheng Luk-ki, the research and conservation head of Green Power, said they would not publicly support the idea because there were no details on how the fund would be managed and used.