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Letter dated 28 April 2004 sent to the China Daily

Enhancing Our Harbour-front through Consensus

People's aspirations change over time. Looking back into history, when we were children, our textbooks taught us how leveling of hills and reclaiming from the Harbour had contributed to Hong Kong's proud record of development, transforming itself from a fishing village into an international financial centre. Today, the public's call for the Harbour to be preserved and protected is loud and clear.

But protecting Victoria Harbour, this special public asset of Hong Kong people, should not just be equated to no reclamation. The community rightly expects a vibrant and accessible waterfront for them to appreciate the beauty of the Harbour and what it means for all of us. The Central harbour-front to be developed on land reclaimed for an underground Central-Wan Chai Bypass within the Central Reclamation Phase III (CRIII) will make our vision come true. The Government will achieve this through maximum public participation upon the setting up of the Harbour-front Enhancement Committee.

From the model on CRIII a picture of which is contained in the "All About the CRIII" booklet published last December, one would appreciate that -

  • The future shoreline of Central will be marked by a spacious waterfront promenade. Indeed, some 9 hectares of reclaimed land are zoned for open use.
  • There will only be low rise structures along the new waterfront providing the leisure, retail and restaurant facilities to support a vibrant promenade for the enjoyment of the community.
  • There will be north-south pedestrian corridors providing attractive, convenient, safe and comfortable pedestrian links to bring people to the waterfront.

All these should help dispel any myth or worry that the future harbour-front will be lined with high rise bulky building structures resulting from the sale of excessive land for commercial development.

What had transpired during the harbour debate over the past year points to the importance of fully engaging the public. The Government has certainly taken full note of this. Yesterday, the Government announced the membership of the newly formed Harbour-front Enhancement Committee. Comprising representatives from the relevant professional bodies, green groups, harbour and tourism bodies, business sector, district councilors, community leaders and chaired by Professor LEE Chack-fan, the Committee is tasked to carry out several important areas of work.

The Committee will provide timely advice and help build consensus in some unfinished harbour reclamation business. The Government has pledged that apart from the CRIII under way to provide land for the essential transport infrastructure and the Wan Chai North and Southeast Kowloon reclamation proposals, there will be no more reclamation within the Harbour in future. To reflect this commitment, other reclamations previously proposed or mooted such as those in Tsuen Wan Bay and off Green Island in Western have been removed from our Outline Zoning Plans in recent months. A private reclamation in Yau Tong Bay has also been referred back to the Town Planning Board for reconsideration.

As for the Wan Chai North proposal which is related to the Central - Wan Chai Bypass and the Southeast Kowloon Development, covering the future of the runway and the Kai Tak Nullah, these are unfinished city planning business that we could not shy away from by proclaiming no more reclamation. These two remaining proposals will be subject to review to ensure that any proposed reclamation will meet the Court of Final Appeal's "overriding public need test". The Harbour-front Enhancement Committee will be consulted at every stage of these reviews. In addition, the Government will consult widely on these proposals once conceptual plans are ready. We are acutely aware that public consultations on key issues of community concern and where multi-stakeholders' interest is involved should start as early as possible. This will help build greater consensus.

Apart from deliberating on matters amongst its members, the Committee will enlist public participation in harbour-front planning and enhancement work. This may be achieved through projects and activities to be sponsored by the Committee and seminars or focus group discussions to be convened. With the representation of key departments concerning harbour-front planning on the Committee, including planning and lands, transport, territory development, environment and works, and home affairs, the Committee will no doubt provide valuable input to how such planning may be improved. On management of relevant harbour-front facilities, including the future waterfront promenade in Central, we also look to the Committee and the private sector for advice and innovation.

The decision of the Society for Protection of the Harbour not to pursue an appeal regarding the CRIII has put an end to the year-long litigations on reclamation. The establishment of the Harbour-front Enhancement Committee, on which the Society, amongst others, is represented, marks the beginning of joint efforts by the community and the Government to create a vibrant harbour-front for the enjoyment of local residents.

With a common vision and a trustful relationship, we are confident that Victoria Harbour will be enhanced to become an even greater and more unique attraction for the enjoyment of the community.

Mrs Carrie Lam
Permenant Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands (Planning and Lands)