Legco wants new Tamar assessment

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 April, 2006, 12:00am

Chief executive says decision on land use was made years ago and lawmakers are 'going overboard'


Legislators have said they will not support the plan to build a new government headquarters on prime waterfront land in Admiralty without a full assessment of the environmental impact.


They also want an explanation of why the move is necessary and information on the future of the existing government buildings.


But Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said a decision on the use of the Tamar site had been made years ago and the government wanted to press ahead with the project as soon as possible. He described opposition to the project as 'overboard'.


The legislators' stance was spelled out at yesterday's Legislative Council subcommittee meeting studying the development of the Central waterfront. It heard concerns from environmental and harbour activists that existing development plans could make bad air pollution even worse.


Under the current Central outline zoning plan, which was drafted in the early '90s, one third of the waterfront area from the International Finance Centre to the Convention and Exhibition Centre was designated for highways and roads.


Designing Hong Kong Harbour District convenor Paul Zimmerman said the government had played down the environmental impact of the Tamar development.


'It is misleading to say that it will only add 3 per cent to the traffic load because it could actually go up to 13 per cent in peak hours,' Mr Zimmerman said.


Civic Exchange chief executive Christine Loh Kung-wai urged the government to conduct a thorough environmental impact assessment on the Tamar project. A previous assessment conducted in 2001 had been based on the assumption that the Tamar site was a piece of flat land, omitting the 'deep canyons' effect brought about by tall buildings, the think-tank said.


The Legco subcommittee passed a motion moved by Kwok Ka-ki, who said that it would not support the Tamar project unless the government conducted an in-depth environmental impact assessment, specified the urgent need to build new government headquarters at Tamar and explained the future of the Murray Building and existing Central Government Offices.


But Mr Tsang stressed the decision on using the Tamar site was made years ago and had been upheld after a legal challenge last year.


'We are not forcing it through. We are just trying to implement it as soon as possible,' he said on an RTHK radio programme yesterday.


'But there is still opposition today. I think that has gone overboard,' he said. He was adamant the Democratic Alliance for the Progress and Betterment of Hong Kong's proposal of relocating the government headquarters to southeast Kowloon would not be feasible.


Whether some features at the Lower Albert Road offices should be preserved would be handled when the Town Planning Board considered future use of the site, he said. Information on the office area needed under the Tamar project would be provided at the meeting of the Legco panel on housing, lands and works on April 25.