The battle for country parks is not yet won
Afforestation was an urgent task after the war. The Colony was almost entirely deforested. As vegetation became denser the need to arrest fires and litter grew. So also did the voices for nature conservation, public education and recreation in the forests.
The call to establish a ‘national parks’ scheme was answered by colonial governor Murray MacLehose in 1974, with one newspaper reporting the installation of ‘150 tables for picnickers, 135 benches, 110 barbecue pits and 600 litter bins.’ The Country Parks Ordinance was enacted in 1976 and the Country Parks Regulations in 1977. MacLehose was in a hurry: ‘In four years’ time, there will be about 20 parks covering all the open countryside.’
To expedite the designation, some 77 enclaves of private land inside the parks were excluded from the legislation. Most elderly continued subsistence farming in these small and remote villages for some years while their offspring left for factories in Kwun Tong and Tsuen Wan or went overseas.
Access was mostly on foot or by sampan. The few accessible villages close to Sai Kung developed with small houses under the 1972 policy. They became a popular choice for expats including retirees and pilots (before Kai Tak closed). Fast forward, in 1992 the Sha Lo Tung judicial review stopped a golf course development in this enclave famous for butterfly colonies. A six-year long campaign started in 2000 to hold off the creation of a zone for 370 houses at the Tai Long Wan beach enclave.
Sporadic unauthorised development at enclaves culminated in condemnation when the government failed to act on extensive land clearing behind the beach of Tai Long Sai Wan in the summer of 2010. The public demanded protection of the country parks and strengthening of development control. Recognising the enclaves as part of the country parks would put development under the strict Country Park Regulations Ordinance. Land owners, egged on by the Heung Yee Kuk, objected aggressively.
In 2014, the Government excluded their own advisors, the Country and Marine Parks Board, from its decision not to incorporate the village enclaves Hoi Ha, Pak Lap, So Lo Pun, To Kwa Peng, Pak Tam Au and Tin Fu Tsai into Country Parks.
Government did not go further than zoning the enclaves under the Town Planning Ordinance. This offers minimal protection. It does not provide for management or adequate enforcement powers.
On 12 October this year, the Court of Final Appeal ruled otherwise – the Save Our Country Parks Alliance won. The Government is ordered to go back to the Country and Marine Parks Board. Question is now – will they stop the rot and take control over the enclaves? The battle to protect our country parks has yet to be won.
(Based on ‘The battle for country parks is not yet won’ by Paul Zimmerman published in Southside Magazine, 1 November 2020)
1974 年，時任港督麥理浩回應訴求，設立類似「國家公園」的規劃大綱，同期亦有報章報導在郊野公園為行山客安裝 150 張枱、135 長櫈、110 個燒烤爐及 600 個垃圾桶的消息。郊野公園條例及郊野公園規例分別在 1976 年及 1977 年通過立法，而麥對此顯然感到不足，並指出在四年內將會有約20個郊野公園遍布郊區。
為加快立法進度，約 77 個位於郊野公園範圍內，屬私人擁有的「不包括土地」獲得豁免。這些土地擁有者中多為長者，他們把這些土地發展成村落並繼續耕作，其子嗣則選擇到城市的工廠尋找工作機會，或到海外發展。這些村落大多只能步行前往，或以舢舨進入。其中小數如西貢等則因 1972 年的政策發展成丁屋群，在啟德停用前，它們是外籍退休人士及機師的熱門居住地方。
1992 年的沙螺洞司法覆核案阻止在這個蝴蝶棲息地興建高爾夫球場，在 2000 年開展的長達六年的抗爭亦成功否決在大浪灣沙灘周邊的「不包括土地」興建 370 間房屋的計劃。然而，2010 年夏天，政府對大浪西灣沙灘後方的土地清理行為視而不見，零星的違例發展達至高峰。社會大眾要求保護郊野公園，並進一步管制發展開發行為，其一方向就是藉把「不包括土地」納入郊野公園範圍，實施嚴格的發展要求限制。作為地主之一，視鄉郊土地為金蛋的鄉議局，想當然作出強烈反對。
今年 10 月 12 日，終審法院判決保衛郊野公園大聯盟勝訴，政府需回到郊野公園及海岸公園委員會重新審視決定。問題是，政府會否下定決心奪回「不包括土地」的掌控權？保護郊野公園的抗爭尚未成功，同志們仍須努力。
16個團體建議1,120公頃紅花嶺郊野公園 保護當地重要資源 16 groups jointly propose a 1,120-hectare Country Park to protect the important resources at the Robin’s Nest area
香港地貌岩石保育協會、香港大學學生會理學會生態學及生物多樣性學會、香港地球之友、海下之友有限公司、綠領行動、綠色和平、環保觸覺、Hong Kong Outdoors、島嶼活力行動、西貢護牛天使
16 groups have jointly announced a joint statement on the expectations on the upcoming designation of Robin’s Nest Country Park (RNCP). The groups urge Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) to conserve areas of high ecological, historical, cultural, landscape conservation significance under the Country Park system as soon as possible, and to protect and strengthen the important terrestrial ecological corridor between Hong Kong and mainland China. A RNCP boundary was proposed for the consideration of AFCD, covering 1,120 hectares of land with over 95% of government land.
The conservation importance of RNCP has long been recognized by the Government. Roy Ng Hei Man, Campaign Manager of The Conservancy Association, mentioned that “Back in 1993 and 2008, the Territorial Development Strategy Review Study and feasibility study of the Land Use Planning for the Frontier Closed Area by the Planning Department have already recommended the designation of the RNCP respectively. The Government promised in the 2017 Policy Address that Robin’s Nest will be designated as a Country Park while The Secretary of Environment Mr. Wong Kam Sing also confirmed in December 2018 that the designation of the RNCP is on its way. It is clear that the conservation of Robin’s Nest is well-recognized and the Government should therefore not further delay the designation”.
The groups consider that the Country Park system is suitable for the protection, conservation and management of important ecological resources in the Robin’s Nest and associated areas. Woo Ming Chuan, Senior Conservation Officer of The Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, said that “The northern slope of Robin’s Nest, extending from Shan Tsui to San Kwai Tin and Lin Ma Hang, is well covered with continuous secondary woodland intermingled with natural streams of conservation concern. It thus supports a high diversity of flora and fauna. Two Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) were even designated in this area for the conservation of the highly restricted, rare freshwater fish Chinese Rasbora and one of the most important bat colonies in Hong Kong. The globally vulnerable Chinese Grassbird preferred upland grassland habitat stretches from the southern slope of Robin’s Nest to Wo Keng Shan and Heung Yuen Wai, while the lowland grasslands at Lin Ma Hang and Man Uk Pin are potential wintering sites of this species. Many large fung shui woodlands with mature trees are found along the foot of the southern slope of Robin’s Nest”.
Robin’s Nest is well-recognized as the only obvious terrestrial ecological corridor between Hong Kong and mainland China, with continuous secondary woodland at the northern slope ecologically connected to the Wutongshan National Forest Park in Shenzhen while strips of woodlands and other undisturbed vegetated areas at the southern slope are linked to those at the Pat Sin Leng Country Park. Dr. Cheng Luk Ki, Director of Green Power, said, “This corridor is the only well-vegetated pathway with little built-up area where wild animals (e.g. land birds, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals) can still move between Hong Kong and Shenzhen/Guangdong, thus their population in these two places can be healthily sustained. Therefore, all the habitats along this corridor should be well-protected to maintain such ecological connectivity both across and within the Hong Kong border”.
Various heritage resources within the Robin’s Nest area have different local historical interest or significance. Roy Ng added, “For example, the Grade-2-listed Macintosh Forts at Pak Kung Au and Kong Shan served the role in bringing law and order to the frontier and in the control of illegal immigration. Some ruins, pillboxes and other structures are believed to have been built for defensive purpose during the 20th century. Lin Ma Hang Lead Mine and its adjacent ruins form good evidence in reflecting Hong Kong’s mining history. The hilly terrain of Robin’s Nest is also identified as being of high landscape value in the Landscape Value Mapping of Hong Kong by the Planning Department in 2003”.
Robin’s Nest is not only used by local people for passive recreational activities, but is also becoming more popular among hikers and the public since the opening-up of the Frontier Closed Area. Paul Zimmerman, Chief Executive of Designing Hong Kong, said “All these activities indicate the recreational potential of Robin’s Nest, and the urgency of the Country Park designation, in order to provide better habitat protection and management for the enjoyment of the public. The Country Park Ordinance (Cap. 208) would offer a higher level of protection than the land use control under the Town Planning Ordinance (Cap. 131). Habitats of conservation concern can be actively managed and protected with regular patrols. Facilities for visitors and hiking routes can be designed, provided and maintained in the ecologically and scenically less-sensitive areas of the Country Park, for public education and enjoyment. Existing graves and burial grounds can be respected and managed within the Country Park for better regulation and fire prevention”.
The groups strongly urge AFCD to consider the proposal and define the boundary of the RNCP according to the “Principles and Criteria for Designating Country Parks (2011)” (2011 Principles and Criteria). From the 2011 Principles and Criteria, conservation value, recreation potential as well as landscape and aesthetic value are the key themes of the intrinsic criteria for identifying suitable areas for designating Country Parks, while private land is not automatically taken as a determining factor for exclusion from the Country Park boundary. The aforementioned areas of high ecological, historical, cultural and landscape value should therefore be included within the boundary of RNCP for nature and heritage conservation and management.
Six co-organized groups (in alphabetical order):
The Conservancy Association, Designing Hong Kong, Green Power, The Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, The Hong Kong Countryside Foundation, Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden
Supporting organizations (in alphabetical order):
Association for Geoconservation, Hong Kong, Ecology & Biodiversity Society, SS, HKUSU, Friends of the Earth (HK), Friends of Hoi Ha, Greeners Action, Greenpeace, Greensense, Hong Kong Outdoors, Living Islands Movement, Sai Kung Cattle’s Angel
上週末在高塘下洋慘遭破壞的季節性濕地有超過6成土地屬於榮登拓展有限公司。該公司由陳麗明持有，並由范惠玲擔任秘書，在2012年2月以$6,702,008購入鄰近多個地段。我們到訪該公司的註冊地址，發現現址為“New Hall Design Limited” 的建築設計公司，同樣由陳麗明持有。職員稱公司擁有高塘下洋的土地，但負責人正在休假。她們會在下週聯絡我們，以得知鄉議局是否合法地取得業主同意下斬樹。
【Country Parks under attack from the Heung Yee Kuk】
Last Sunday, the Heung Yee Kuk felled trees and removed vegetation on wetland deep inside the Sai Kung Country Park.
It was a protest against Government’s plan to zone the area for conservation. The Kuk claimed the zoning would restrict farming on this enclave of private land. This is nonsense for two reasons. First, farming is always allowed, even on agricultural land in country parks. Secondly, our investigation has now revealed that the land in question was sold to developers in 2012. The indigenous villagers long gave up their interest in farming.
What the Heung Yee Kuk is really after is the right to build small houses on private land in country parks. The pattern of the sale of village land to developers, destruction of vegetation, the push for rezoning and the illegal sale of the “Ding” right to build small houses, is replayed constantly throughout the New Territories, including deep inside our country parks.
The Small House Policy is unsustainable, attracts illegal activities, and results in environmentally disastrous developments. The Kuk’s push for small houses in country park enclaves is harmful to the surrounding country parks and nearby marine resources. Since the Tai Long Sai Wan incident in 2010, Designing Hong Kong together with community, hiking and conservation groups has worked hard to protect the country parks from these destructive developments.
Heung Yee Kuk ‘farming’ lies exposed
Over 60% of the seasonal wetland in Ko Tong Ha Yeung which was subject to tree felling this weekend, was bought by Glory Top Develop Limited on February 2012 for $6,702,008. The company is owned by Chan Lai Ming, and Fan Wai Ling is the secretary. We visited their office which was branded “New Hall Design Limited” – a company with the same directors. Staff confirmed that the land at Ko Tong Ha Yeung was theirs, but that the person in charge was on holiday and would call us back upon her return next week. Whether the Heung Yee Kuk had approval to cut the trees is yet unclear.
Records uncovered by Designing Hong Kong’s land searches for Tai Tan, Uk Tau, Ko Tong and Ko Tong Ha Yeung can be found here:http://goo.gl/QJPt4B
News Report on villagers tree felling and vegetation clearance:
Hong Kong Free Press: https://goo.gl/10Ynma
“Tai Tan, Uk Tau and Ko Tong suspected over 50 Small Houses Front man Scheme”
(Please scroll down for English )
Front men schemes covering 50+ small houses in Tai Tan, Uk Tau and Ko Tong
(Designing Hong Kong “Tai Tan, Uk Tau and Ko Tong Land Ownership Study” PowerPoint presentation：
A study of land transactions in Tai Tan, Uk Tau and Ko Tong shows that for more than 50 small house applications to the Lands Department and/or Town Planning Board the land was first bought by developers and transferred to the applicants just prior to their applications. These patterns are strikingly similar to the front man scheme discovered in the Sha Tin Tai Che Village court case (No. DCCC25/2015) during which the Court considered this an illegal practice.
Based on our findings we made the following recommendations to the Administration, the Town Planning Board and the ICAC to deter front men schemes abusing the small house policy:
1. Upon receipt of applications for small house developments the Lands Department should consider the transaction history of the site(s) involved. Suspicious cases should be examined in detail.
2. Group applications by “dings” on behalf of developers should be rejected. Only applications made by individual applicants should be considered.
3. The intention of the applicant to live in their small house must be considered including a study of their immigration records to determine whether applicants ordinarily reside in Hong Kong. Only ordinary residents should be allowed to apply.
4. Details of applications for small houses must be made public with an online database showing the applicant, an overview of the land transactions and current status, and the progress of the applications.
5. When considering draft plans and applications, the Town Planning Board and the Planning Department must take into account the land transaction history. This is essential in ensuring that the Board does not aid and abet front men schemes.
6. To prevent government officials from breaching the law, ICAC is drafting recommendations on how the Lands Department can minimize risks when handling applications which create development values. We call for the report to be disclosed to the public. It should not be restricted to the Lands Department. A detailed review should be published so that the general public can better understand how front men schemes can be prevented.
Apple Daily: http://goo.gl/Bpsr5n
(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:
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
香港環保團體合力發動行山打卡熱潮 香港巿民透過史無前例的網上動員行動對抗郊野公園發展威脅 Green Groups Create Selfies Fire Storm #SaveOurCountryParks Hongkongers express support for country parks during unprecedented event in response to development threats
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。
Hongkongers express support for country parks
during unprecedented event in response to development threats
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.
(A/SK-TLW/1; A/SK-TLW/2; A/SK-TLW/3; A/SK-TLW/4; A/SK-TLW/5)
Dear Chairman and Members,
I object to planning permission for the development of five houses as this will impact the natural and cultural heritage of Tai Long Wan, and contravene the planning intention as agreed under the Outline Zoning Plan for Tai Long Wan (S/SK-TLW/5).
We, the undersigned, hereby petition the HKSAR Chief Executive, C.Y Leung to:
1) Abolish the divisive, discriminatory, outdated and unsustainable Small House Policy without any further delay
or, at the very least:
2) Amend the SHP without undue delay so that the SHP no longer applies within Country Park boundaries