Return Queen’s Pier to where it belongs

Relocating it to areas other than the Central harbourfront would make a mockery of its heritage value

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 May, 2016, 9:52pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 May, 2016, 9:52pm

The Queen’s Pier is back on the public agenda. But unlike the outcry nine years ago when the historic structure was removed from the Central waterfront to make way for reclamation, the public is seemingly less concerned about where it will be relocated. Indeed, the two-month engagement exercise launched by the Development Bureau has ended without much noise.

The lacklustre response is probably related to the narrow scope of discussion. Under the plan, the pier will be reassembled between ferry piers 9 and 10 at the Central waterfront. The consultation only provides options on the designs, with the costs ranging from between HK$230 million and HK$303 million. It did not offer any alternative to the location.

The proposals to return the pier to the harbourfront is indeed in line with the preference of the people back then. Nonetheless, there are now calls to relocate it elsewhere. This includes the suggestion by a top government heritage adviser to reconstruct it on the outlying island of Lantau. The idea was immediately ridiculed by other experts, who likened it to plucking a monument out of its historical context.

Ideally, the structure should be put back to where it was. Built by the British in the 1950s as an integral part of City Hall and Edinburgh Place, the pier was where arriving governors first set foot in the colony. While in situ preservation enhances the integrity of the heritage complex and helps illustrate the original coastline, it also takes away its function as a pier. Relocating it to the Central waterfront is therefore a sensible option.

The campaigns to defend the Star Ferry clock tower and Queen’s Pier in the last decade were widely seen as the city’s awakening to heritage preservation. Since then, officials have been paying more attention to balancing the needs of development and conservation. The landmark is as much part of our history as the beginning of a new chapter in our development approach. It is important that it be properly preserved.