Activist seeks judicial review into decision over country park enclaves

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 May, 2014, 5:15am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 May, 2014, 5:15am

A green activist is accusing a government body of failing to follow the law when it chose not to incorporate six enclaves into the surrounding country parks.

In a High Court writ, Chan Ka-lam, a founding member of the Save Our Country Parks alliance, claims the Country and Marine Parks Authority "misused its power" in making the decision.

She is seeking a judicial review of the authority's decision on six enclaves, four in Sai Kung and one each in Plover Cove and Tai Lam.

The authority cannot frustrate the purpose of the [board's] statutory duty
High Court writ by Chan Ka-lam

She argues that the authority should, under the Country Parks Ordinance, have consulted the Country and Marine Parks Board. Instead, she argues, it accepted the verdict of the director of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, who ruled that incorporating the enclaves was not suitable.

The authority claimed that the director's ruling meant the board did not have to be consulted. Members of the board, who include independent experts in conservation, expressed discontent over the decision at a meeting between the authority and the board on February 24.

In the writ, Chan and her group argue that the government was obliged by law to consult the board; under the ordinance, the board must be consulted on any draft country park map.

"The authority cannot frustrate the purpose of the statutory duty imposed on the board simply by not placing one country parks policy of its choice, but not others, before the board," she wrote in the writ. "A failure to comply with the statute in the exercise of a power conferred subject to a statutory condition is a classic misuse of power."

The fate of country park enclaves has been the source of a series of bitter disputes. Since 2010, the government has been drawing up zoning plans for scores of enclaves after controversy over unauthorised development in a Sai Kung enclave.

But while landowners whose property was incorporated into country parks claimed their rights had been impinged, conservationists said not enough had been done to protect sensitive rural areas.