Government environmental advisers have raised concerns about pockets of private land within a proposed nature reserve at Sha Lo Tung. They said the ownership issue may compromise long-term conservation efforts for the site, a butterfly haven in the heart of the Pat Sin Leng Country Park in the northeastern New Territories. The concerns were raised at a special meeting of the Advisory Committee for the Environment's environmental impact assessment subcommittee. Members discussed a developer's plan to build a columbarium on part of the site and conserve the rest. The plan is the first public-private partnership project under a new conservation policy that aims to preserve privately owned sites of high ecological value. The Sha Lo Tung Development Company, which owns most of the area, wants to swap that land for a plot, largely owned by the government, in the adjacent green belt on which to build a Buddhist retreat centre and columbarium for 60,000 urns. The firm would create a HK$100 million trust fund to conserve 52 hectares of land, including 27 hectares it would hand over. The company has teamed up with environmental group Green Power. However, 4 per cent of the land the company proposes would make up the reserve is held by other private owners. Some of this land falls within the boundary of the uninhabited village of Sha Lo Tung and indigenous villagers are entitled to build homes on it under the small-house policy. Ng Cho-nam, chairman of the committee, asked whether the plan would enhance the development potential of this village land and noted that there were no planning controls to stop development of these areas. He asked whether it was possible that a management board to be formed to oversee conservation efforts might succumb to pressure from villagers to back development. 'There is just administrative control, but no proper planning controls to achieve that aim [of conservation]. And that would create future uncertainties,' he said. But a consultant for the developer played down Mr Ng's concerns. The consultant said the company was still talking to the land owners about buying their plots and believed its good relationship with the villagers would ensure the conservation plans were successfully implemented.