For english version, please click here.
Develop first, No conservation
Lantau will be an Ugly Duckling
Green groups urge for implementation of conservation plan and traffic restriction first
Green groups strongly object to any large-scale development such as East Lantau Metropolis and the strategic road systems and request the government to make conservation the top priority for Lantau development, to safeguard the rich biodiversity and the close relationship between humans and nature on Lantau. The groups have presented a list of conservation measures (including traffic restriction) it urges the government to implement.
The First-term Work Report made by Lantau Development Advisory Committee (LanDAC) has been submitted to the Administration on January 2016.
This report proposed massive, “creative” and unassessed developments such as East Lantau Metropolis, super large-scale strategic road systems and numerous tourism facilities including viewing and stargazing facilities for the Sunset Peak. The proposed developments will have disastrous impacts on the ecosystem and the local community, and destroy the tranquil environment and magnificent landscape of Lantau.
Because of its unique location, Lantau has rich and diversified natural habitats such as low-lying wetlands, montane grasslands, freshwater streams and soft coral marine habitats. These habitats breed many rare and endangered species such as Chinese White Dolphin, Horseshoe Crab, Oval Halophila, Romer’s Tree Frog, Common Cerulean, Ayu Sweetfish and Brown Fish Owl. The most valuable thing is that human can live with nature closely. Bovine on Lantau was accepted as “heritage and landscape as human values” by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for harmonic human-bovid relationship. This can show Lantau is definitely a nature treasure for us.
However, this First-term Work Report claims to support sustainable development but no positive conservation measure is proposed. LanDAC even proposes to relax the traffic restriction on closed roads, and establish a strategic road network connecting west of Hong Kong Island, South Lantau, North Lantau and North West of New Territories.
These measures would increase the development pressure by giving false hope to land owners, hindering any conservation plans and actions on Lantau, especially in ecologically sensitive rural areas where there is no Development Permission Area (DPA) plan and no statutory protection could be done by government, such as South Lantau and part of North Lantau. As a result, eco-vandalism has long been proliferating with impunity on private land without DPA plans, even in ecologically important wetlands like Pui O.
Our natural environment does not belong to us alone, but the next generations. Reckless development without appropriate controls and active conservation measures will quickly destroy the natural treasure of Lantau and lead to a failure of promised “sustainable development.”
Hence, green groups urge the Administration to implement a list of conservation measures:
1. Before any proposed development, develop a comprehensive transport and traffic strategy and restrict traffic to reduce the economic incentive for unauthorized developments and prevent proposed development from exceeding environmental carrying capacity;
2. Amend the Town Planning Ordinance to allow itself to cover South Lantau and Wong Lung Hang WITH DEVELOPMENT PERMISSION AREA PLANS, offering enforcement powers for the Planning Department and continue to speed up the process of DPA plan covering on the remaining lands of Lantau such as San Tau, Sha Lo Wan and Sham Wat, which have no statutory control, to provide statutory protection
3. Include any development plans on Lantau in the on-going “Hong Kong 2030+ Towards a Planning Vision and Strategy Transcending 2030” study and carry out a comprehensive Strategic Environmental Assessment for endorsement of all the proposed and planned developments on Lantau.
4. Set up NO-GO areas for ecologically sensitive areas and implement active conservation management plan
Regarding to East Lantau Metropolis and associated traffic and transport strategy, green groups highlight:
1. New roads should be well justified, assessed (in the context of environmental impacts, cost effectiveness and public interest), and the public should be consulted before.
2. Green groups object to the proposed East Lantau Metropolis which will create significant impact on marine ecosystem and water quality and strategic road system connecting west of Hong Kong Island, South Lantau, North Lantau and northern-west of New Territories, which will cut through the country parks and ecologically sensitive areas, and create significant development pressure in South Lantau especially Mui Wo and drastically increase vessel traffic in the surrounding waters and threaten fisheries resources and cetaceans
3. The construction of East Lantau Metropolis and the associated strategic road system is not well-justified and will cost a huge amount of money, having a very high potential to become new white elephant project.
Green groups have also launched an online petition platform to motivate the public to express their opinion on Lantau development to the Administration:
Key species/habitats of conservation concern in different areas of Lantau
Website：Lantau green groups joint letter – appendix
Co-signatories (in alphabetical order):
Designing Hong Kong
Hong Kong Bird Watching Society
Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society
Lantau Buffalo Association
Living Islands Movememt
The Conservancy Association
WWF Hong Kong
Government is preparing a Biodiversity Action and Strategy Plan.
The objective is to better safeguard Hong Kong’s biodiversity, and to contribute to safeguarding the world’s biodiversity.
Our concern is the absence of a comprehensive debate.
Hong Kong’s land supply strategy and conserving biodiversity need to be looked at as one and not two discussions in separate rooms.
There is also an urgent need to reform legislation to protect habitats on private land, as proven by the ongoing land filling and tree felling throughout rural areas and country parks.
The BSAP consultation will conclude mid-nite 7 Apr 2016.
Below are links to the Government website as well as suggestions and form letters to aid your timely response.
Designing Hong Kong form letter for your use.
2. Presentations Public forum – BSAP: Charting a sustainable future for Hong Kong – held on 19 March.
Online Survey Findings 網上意見調查報告
調查日期 Survey period
2/3/2016 – 15/3/2016
We have received 375 responses to our survey. 期間共收到375份回覆。
Detailed report, please click the link below. 請按以下連結瀏覽全份意見調查報告。
The government is consulting the public on its proposed pilot scheme for electronic road pricing in Central. (Click here for the public engagement document).
The deadline for comments is 18 March 2016.
Do you support the proposal? Object? Any views on the details? You can write to Government directly, or take part in our online survey (link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VZ5DQ9S). Our office will consolidate and report the responses to the government.
In the meantime, please find below our CEO Paul Zimmerman’s personal view as published in Southside magazine – in short Paul proposes there is no charging for the use of Connaught/Gloucester Road Corridor, but for the use of the inner areas only.
Let us know your views.
Southside Magazine – March 2016
(Photo credit: Conservancy Association)
Protect Pak Sha O – Click and object to zoning:http://protectskpso.weebly.com/
Deadline for comments is 4 February.
We urge you to help the Conservancy Association protect the cultural and architectural landscape and ecology of Pak Sha O, a historic hakka village located in the Sai Kung West Country Park.
In December 2015, a draft Outline Zoning Plan (S/NE-PSO/1) was published for public consultation. It shows where small house developments will be permitted. Surprisingly, it is exactly the land already sold to Xinhua Bookstore Xiang Jiang Group Limited. The Planning Department says that they are responding to villagers’ claims that a large area is needed for small house developments.
But their demand is highly suspect. Records show that villagers sold their agricultural land to Xinhua some 5 years ago. Records also show that recently Xinhua “sold back” the land to villagers who have “ding rights”. Are these villagers acting as frontmen for the developer? Is the demand for small houses genuine or simply a scheme for development profits?
It is a mystery as to why the Planning Department is aiding and abetting this obvious frontmen scheme recently found to be illegal by the District Court. The boundaries of the area the Planning Department is proposing for small houses is near exact the land bought by Xinhua!
We call on the community to object to this blatant development scheme. Help the Conservancy Association by completing the on-line form http://protectskpso.weebly.com/
Just a coincidence? The visual above shows the land bought by Xinhua (pink areas), the land subsequently sold back to villagers in whose names recently applications were submitted for small houses (red dots), and the boundary (brown line) of the proposed v-zone, the area where construction of small houses would be permitted in the future if the Town Planning Board approves the proposal form the Planning Department.
For more information, please see on-line reports (in Chinese) from the Conservancy Association:
Protect Pak Sha O– Click and object to zoning:
Play in the Tak
Join and connect with friends – come and play along Tak 玩德節- the original name for “Des Voeux Road Central”.
The Tak festival starts 27th February and runs till end of March.
Sections of the street will be transformed into experimental playgrounds. You are invited to play Jenga on the street corner, join a sidewalk gaming tour, and discover hidden gems in alleys and lanes to start an interesting conversation with strangers. You can join workshops, exhibitions, talks and events.
The festival is presented by the Des Voeux Road Central Initiative. The aim is to raise awareness and support for improving the pedestrian environment along Des Voeux Road Central.
For more information:
請在2月26日或之前反對二澳發展計劃。 二澳是位於北大嶼山郊野公園的不包括土地。部份村民在很久以前已將實質的發展權益售予發展商，當中涉及利益的名人包括劉皇發和謝賢。 當政府在2010年公佈將會透過城規條例或郊野公園條例保護餘下的不包括土地，發展商和村民急忙夥拍林筱魯發展二澳。林筱魯與政府關係密切，同時是大嶼山發展諮詢委員會委員。 整套發展計劃先於2012年以復耕的名義，清除當地的植被和改變河道，破壞了當地的生態。
Yi O is an enclave deep inside the Lantau North Country Park. Some villagers sold their beneficial interest in the land to developers a decade ago. Well-known names are involved including Lau Wong Fat and Patrick Tse Yin.
In 2010, after Government announced that they would protect the last remaining enclaves under the Town Planning or the Country Park Ordinance, the developers and villagers hurried to bring in Andrew Lam Siu Lo. Andrew is well connected with Government and is on the Lantau Development Advisory Committee.
A vicious plan was put together. The first step was to clear all the vegetation and divert streams. Under the excuse of farming, the ecology was destroyed in 2012.
The ‘fake farming’ trick worked. The Planning Department now finds it difficult to zone the barren land for conservation uses in the Outline Zoning Plan put in front of the Town Planning Board. House developments including small houses will permitted off right or by application for large areas of land. The owners and developers are now also asking for a road to Tai O, a ferry pier, and rights to build a 70-room ‘eco-lodge’. Once permitted, these developments will forever impact the Lantau North Country Park. We need your support – click here to submit your comments and views to the Town Planning Board. More information: Gist of Town Planning Board Representations on Yi O Outline Zoning Plan News clip Yi O development plan News clip Yi O destruction
The upcoming sale of a government building in Mong Kok is a valuable chance to improve walkability in the area, but officials are shirking their responsibility. An edited version of the article below appeared in the South China Morning Post on 2 January 2016.
Paul Zimmerman, Pok Fu Lam district councillor and CEO of Designing Hong Kong.
I like the Ombudsman’s recent public announcements that tai chi is healthy, but not in public administration. Tai chi, in local slang, means to shirk responsibility. The Ombudsman, Connie Lau Yin-hing, is already so busy clearing obvious cases of maladministration that I wonder whether she will have time for the well-practised, evasive language bureaucrats dish out when they reply to proposals and questions.
In our campaign to improve walkability, our latest encounter with tai chi is over the sale of the Trade and Industry Department (TID) Tower, formerly known as Argyle Centre Tower II, on Nathan Road in Mong Kok. It is a 1980s building owned by the government. The tender for its sale closes on January 8. We have asked for it to include terms which oblige the buyer to internalise the links to Mong Kok MTR station and the Mong Kok Road footbridge. These stairs and escalators currently obstruct pavements and roads surrounding the building. Mongkok MTR station exits B1, B2 and B3 occupy the south and east pavements. Staircases of the Mongkok Road footbridge built by Sun Hung Kei occupy the pavement and two lanes of Mong Kok Road north of the building.
Removing these structures from the adjacent pavements and roads would improve pedestrian and vehicular circulation at street level. Moreover, linking the footbridge with a new Argyle Street footbridge via the Argyle Centre Towers is a critical piece of the puzzle the government has been struggling with: the creation of a comprehensive elevated pedestrian network desperately needed to alleviate the overcrowding of Mong Kok’s streets.
The sale of the building is a one-off opportunity to improve walkability. If we fail to spell out these requirements in the tender, it will be hard to convince the buyer to give up gross floor area and to invest in the works later.
The Government Property Agency’s first move to shirk responsibility was outrageous. It said: “Having consulted the Transport Department, we note that it would cause inconvenience to the pedestrians. It would require pedestrians to pass through the internal area of the building before reaching the footbridge and Nathan Road. The route, which will not be open at all times, will be indirect and is not desirable from the perspectives of property management and cost-effectiveness.”
We pointed out that there are many buildings in Hong Kong where this happens all the time, including 100 Queen’s Road Central and the Central-Mid-Levels escalator.
The second tai chi move was claiming that our proposal for amending the tender would cause undue delay to the disposal of the building. The government decided to proceed as scheduled so that “the office space in the TID Tower can be released to the market in a timely manner in accordance with our announced plan to increase the supply of commercial space in prime locations to meet keen market demand”.
This is not the first time we have encountered a misplaced focus on expediency over walkability.
When it became clear in 2009 that the Tamar footbridge would stop 10cm short of Admiralty Centre, we wrote to the government and pointed out the importance of a direct link into the elevated system of Queensway Plaza, Pacific Place and the connected buildings. Officials replied that it would require too much time to negotiate with the owners of Admiralty Centre. So instead, we now all have to go down to street level and back up again to continue on our way.
The government’s third tai chi move talked of how they would “encourage the successful bidder to consider ways of enhancing the connection between the TID Tower and the existing footbridge system and adjoining commercial buildings to improve the surrounding environment”.
From the failures to link Kowloon Bay Station and MegaBox, the Sheraton Hotel and the Middle Road Tunnel, and the Nexxus Building and the Central footbridge, we know that encouragement means little in the Government’s dictionary.
Which department will be responsible for such “encouraging” once the building has been sold? Would this include links to the MTR? Who would pay for the removal of the structures on the pavements and road? Will a bonus plot ratio be offered to compensate for the public passages through the property? Will the land premium be waived for the links over and under government land? These questions go on.
All this would be so much easier to resolve before selling the building. Instead, we will have to wait and see whether this encouragement is real or simply a wimpy tai chi move, another one for the Ombudsman’s tray.
由早上8時至中午12時，總共超過34,106訪客曾進入郊野公園，並透過義工獲得保衛郊野公園的資訊。社交媒體（包括Facebook 活動專頁和Instagram）有著過千相片或影片標籤了 #保衛郊野公園。
Over 200 volunteers from 16 organisations and individuals set up more than 30 stations at key entrances to 20 of Hong Kong’s 24 country parks. The volunteers counted visitors and asked them to take selfies in support of safeguarding country parks. The mega event gave Hong Kong people an opportunity to stand up and oppose those wanting to use country parks for development.
Prof. Lam added: “The national government has decided to incorporate special ecological areas within its urban planning strategy. We should do likewise, yet there are increasing threats from developments. Hong Kong has a unique treasure with our extensive country parks system – which no other World City can rival. Developers and government should not encroach on this unique asset. Today’s event shows that people care and are willing to stand up to protect the country parks for our next generations.”
According to the Country and Marine Parks Authority’s Progress Report, the number of visitors has increased 24.8% compared with last summer – clearly showing that country parks are ever more important for leisure and relaxation for Hong Kong residents and visitors.
Prof. Wong Fook-yee, adjunct professor of the Geography and Resource Management Department of CUHK, related the history and objectives of establishing Hong Kong country parks, and said they should be conserved and protected.
“We have more than ten thousands members – all of whom love the country parks –and this continues to grow,” said SK Shum, organiser of Hong Kong Hiking Meetup. “The country parks are for gathering and meeting new people, for sports and recreation, for our health.”
Suzanne Cheung, CEO of Friends of the Earth (Hong Kong), said, “I love country parks, and am keenly aware of the environmental benefits – such as providing habitats for wildlife to enhance biodiversity, trees absorb carbon dioxide (GHG) to mitigate climate change, greenery that benefits our mental and physical health, and as a source of clean drinking water.”
The groups also called on the Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to stay true to his Election Manifesto, in which he promised that “We will protect our country parks and bodies of land and water with ecological value, and formulate long-term plans for other areas of land available for development.”
More photos and pictures on the press meeting will be uploaded on Save Our Country Parks Facebook Page.
For more hikers’ supportive pictures, please visit #SaveOur CountryParks event page.
Ark Eden、香港地貌岩石保育協會、爭氣行動、創建香港、Eco-Sys Action、香港大學學生會理學會環境生命科學學會、海下之友、西貢之友、大浪灣之友、香港地球之友、綠色社區、綠色大嶼山協會、綠色力量、環保觸覺、綠領行動、綠色和平、香港自然生態論壇、香港單車同盟、香港海豚保育學會、Hong Kong Outdoors、大嶼山愛護水牛協會、島嶼活動行動、活在南丫、勃勃海洋、西貢大浪灣關注組、香港自然探索學會、長春社、香港觀鳥會、世界自然基金會香港分會
香港遠足覓合團、Sai Kung Buffalo Watch、守護大嶼聯盟、徑‧香港
“Save Our Country Parks Alliance” Members and Partners include green, hiking and other concern groups who seek to safeguard Hong Kong’s Country Parks:
Ark Eden, Association for Geoconservation, Hong Kong, Clear the Air, Designing Hong Kong, Eco-Sys Action, Environmental Life Science Society, SS, HKUSU, Friends of Hoi Ha, Friends of Sai Kung, Friends of Tai Long Wan, Friends of the Earth (Hong Kong), Green Community, Green Lantau Association, Green Power, Green Sense, Greeners Action, Greenpeace, HKWildlife.net, Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, Hong Kong Cycling Alliance, Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, Hong Kong Outdoors, Lantau Buffalo Association, Living Islands Movement, Living Lamma, Living Seas Hong Kong, Sai Kung Tai Long Wan Concern Group, Society of Hong Kong Nature Explorers, The Conservancy Association, WWF-Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Hiking Meet Up, Sai Kung Buffalo Watch、Save Lantau Alliance, TrailWatch.
One-off opportunity to improve Mongkok
The Government has announced the sale of the vacant Trade and Industry Department Tower (TID Tower) in Mongkok to the private sector.
This provides an one-off opportunity to relocate the lifts and staircases connecting the Mongkok Road Footbridge System and the Mongkok MTR station into the TID Tower.
Exits B1, B2 and B3 of the Mongkok MTR station occupy adjacent pavements, and the adjacent section of Mongkok Road was reduced by two lanes for staircases and lifts to the footbridge.
Roads and pavements around the TID Tower are narrow. Relocating the staircases and lifts would allow widening of the footway, the carriageway, or both.
It is common in Hong Kong to ask property owners to create public access to footbridges and MTR stations. Architects and developers understand the design, engineering and management challenges of internalizing public lifts and staircases, and allowing pedestrians to pass through private buildings.
The obligation to incorporate the staircases and lifts would not be detrimental to a sale. By specifying 24 hour access, minimum width and capacity in the tender, potential buyers can consider the implications prior to making their bid for this government property.
Whether buyers plan to redevelop the site or re-use the building as is, they will simply consider the cost and the space needed, and adjust the amount they bid accordingly.
The sale of the TID Tower provides a ‘once and for all’ opportunity. Once the site is sold it will be difficult to improve the area as future resumption is unpractical.
Making changes to the tender will cause a slight delay in the sale of the TID Tower. It is worth the effort as it would improve the pedestrian environment and traffic flow, and make Mongkok a better place for all.