Return Victoria Harbour to the people

A new public consultation offers an opportunity for officials to finally turn our waterfront into the envy of the world

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 June, 2016, 12:13am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 June, 2016, 12:44am

Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour is second to none in the world. Flanked by countless skyscrapers on each side, our magnificent harbourfront is as visually stunning as it is inviting. While we are lucky to be blessed with such a gem, its potential is sadly yet to be fully realised. Poor planning and coordination means public enjoyment of the harbourfront remains a dream.

Now there is an opportunity before us to rectify the situation. In a week or so, officials will launch a second-stage consultation on the proposed makeover of the waterfront on Hong Kong Island. The initial ideas appear enticing. For instance, people can enjoy sunbathing, swimming and plunging down water slides in a floating pool next to the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, or take a sampan ride in the Causeway Bay typhoon shelter to a floating restaurant. There are also plans to build a cycling path from Tamar Park to Fortress Hill.

That the government is finally promoting the concept of reconnecting people to the harbour is to be commended. Writing in his blog last week, development chief Paul Chan Mo-po addressed the relationship between public space and the people. Referring to Leon Lai’s recent concerts at the Central waterfront, the minister said the touching scene had reminded him of the importance of linking people to places of historic and aesthetic importance.

If this is what the consultation intends to achieve, it is a move in the right direction. Indeed, the consultation is long overdue. With profits having been the key driver behind land use and development for years, the focus has always been on turning prime waterfront sites into money-making ventures. This is reflected in the scores of glitzy office buildings, hotels and shopping malls crowded along the harbourfront. Even when a policy change is in the air, officials only like to toss around new ideas without turning them into reality. Many development concepts went nowhere despite repeated consultations. The sad result is that although we are endowed with a world-class harbour, only a small part of our 73km coastline is directly accessible to the community.

If the response to one-off carnivals and other events held in Central is anything to go by, the public is clearly in favour of making better use of the harbourfront. Officials should embrace the new consultation and come up with development plans that help return the harbour to the people.