LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1564/96-97
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref: CB1/BC/6/96

Bills Committee on Protection of the Harbour Bill

Minutes of the meeting held on Monday, 21 April 1997, at 4:30 pm in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

    Hon Albert CHAN Wai-yip (Chairman)
    Hon Edward S T HO, OBE, JP
    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, OBE, FEng, JP
    Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
    Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai
    Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP
    Hon IP Kwok-him

Members absent :

    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
    Hon TSANG Kin-shing

Public officers attending :

    Mr Stanley WONG
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands
    Mr Raymond CHIU Tat-loi
    Government Town Planner (Technical Services)
    Mr NG Kwing-kee
    General Manager (Planning), Marine Department

Attendance by invitation :

    Hong Kong Institute of Architects

    Mr Dennis LAU Wing-kwong
    Mr Alex LUI Chun-wan

    Hong Kong Institute of Planners

    Ms Iris TAM
    Miss Fiona LUNG
    Convenor, Public Affairs Committee

    Centre of Urban Planning and Environmental Management, University of Hong Kong

    Dr William Barron

    World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong

    Miss Alex YAU
    Conservation Officer

    Miss Carmen LEE
    Assistant Conservation Officer

    Hong Kong Harbour Pilots Union

    Mr CHEUNG Tai-kee
    Mr YEUNG Man-chor

    Merchant Navy Officers Guild Hong Kong

    Mr Norman PANG
    Mr IP Ting-on

    Hong Kong Seamen’s Union

    Mr POON Chi-kwok
    Mr KWOK Tsang-koon

    Hong Kong Shipping Staff Union

    Mr CHEUNG Shun-hing
    Mr NG Wai-wing

    Harbour Transportation Workers General Union

    Mr HUNG Ping
    Mr HO Kwun-yin

    Society for Protection of the Harbour

    Mr Winston CHU
    Ms CHU FOK Wing-yue
    Financial Sponsor

Clerk in attendance :

    Ms Estella CHAN
    Chief Assistant Secretary (1)4

Staff in attendance :

    Mr Jonathan Daw
    Consultant, Legal Service Division
    Mr Daniel HUI
    Senior Assistant Secretary (1)7

I Confirmation of minutes

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1327/96-97)

The minutes of the meeting held on 9 April 1997 were confirmed.

II Meeting with deputations

Hong Kong Institute of Architects (HKIA)

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1330/96-97(02))

2. Mr Dennis LAU said that HKIA had been monitoring the reclamation issue for some years. Last year, HKIA issued a report on Alternative Harbour Reclamation Study (AHRS) pointing out that there were alternatives to reclamation in providing land for development. The Administration’s existing strategic planning process was not transparent enough and the public had no effective means to influence the reclamation proposals even though there were strong objections. HKIA supported the proposal for an independent body to examine and approve reclamation proposals. As an interim measure, LegCo might be charged with the duty of approving reclamation proposals. However, in the longer term, LegCo might not be the appropriate body because it lacked the technical expertise and might be too busy to take on this additional duty. There should be an independent body chaired by an unofficial to oversee strategic planning in Hong Kong. To facilitate communication with the Administration, the Chairman of the independent body should be a member of the Executive Committee of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR). Membership of the body should comprise professionals, academics, environmentalists, etc, similar to that of the "Strategic Planning Advisory Council" (SPAC) proposed in Ms Christine LOH’s briefing paper (CB(1)1347/96-97(01)). As to Heung Yee Kuk’s membership on the Council, HKIA considered this appropriate only when reclamation proposals for the New Territories were considered. Depending on the area under consideration, representation from relevant municipal councils or district boards was desirable. Mr Alex LUI supplemented that representation from the academic sector should be invited from all tertiary institutions on a rotational basis.

3. Regarding whether the Town Planning Board (TPB) could take on the duty of overseeing strategic planning in Hong Kong, Mr LAU responded that currently TPB did not have the statutory authority to oversee strategic planning. If the Administration was willing to amend the existing legislation to empower TPB to approve strategic planning proposals, including reclamation proposals, and the composition of TPB was revamped to make it an independent body, TPB could be the appropriate body to monitor strategic planning in Hong Kong.

4. Mr LAU concluded that HKIA was in general support of clause 3 of the Bill that any further reclamation work in the Victoria Harbour should only proceed if there were no other alternatives. The Victoria Harbour should be protected as it was Hong Kong’s heritage and an important route for shipping.

Hong Kong Institute of Planners (HKIP)

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1330/96-97(03))

5. Ms Iris TAM said that HKIP strongly objected to the Bill because harbour reclamation was one important element in the context of strategic planning and it was irrational to take out this element and put it under the control of the Legislature. Territorial planning involved various disciplines of professional knowledge and should remain a function of the Executive. The Town Planning Ordinance (TPO) and the terms of reference of TPB could be amended to provide statutory authority to TPB in overseeing strategic planning. Sub-committees could be formed under TPB in order to shoulder the heavy workload. Ms TAM also considered that TPB should be an independent body outside the Administration.

6. As to HKIP’s views on clause 3 of the Bill, Ms TAM advised that although HKIP agreed that harbour reclamation should be minimized as far as possible, there should not be a presumption against harbour reclamation. Reclamation of the harbour was necessary in cases where land was required for building important transportation system and housing persons displaced by urban redevelopment and who preferred to be rehoused in urban areas.

7. As regards whether the scope of the Bill should be extended to cover other sea areas of Hong Kong, Ms Tam advised that regardless of the coverage of the Bill, HKIP remained of the view that the final decision on reclamation should be made by the Executive, rather than the Legislature.

The Centre of Urban Planning and Environmental Management, University of Hong Kong (CUPEM)

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1330/96-97(04))

8. Dr William F. Barron said that there were unequivocal views in the community that the existing system for territorial planning in Hong Kong should be improved. The question was whether proposals in the Bill were the right answers to the problem. The issue had reached a critical stage because further reclamation in the harbour could irrevocably alter the quality of the harbour. While professional planners might consider that harbour reclamation was purely a technical choice, it was in fact a value choice. CUPEM supported the proposals in the Bill.

9. As regards an alternative to LegCo as the body in approving reclamation proposals, Dr Barron remarked that in order to be impartial, the body in approving reclamation proposals had to be independent of the Government, and members of the body should comprise both technical and non-technical personnel. A reorganized TPB was a conceivable alternative if its terms of reference and membership could be revamped. He emphasized that in addition to having an independent body to assess reclamation proposals, it was also important to have a presumption against harbour reclamation as set out in clause 3 of the Bill.

World Wide Fund For Nature Hong Kong (WWF)

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1330/96-97(06))

10. Miss Alex YAU said that WWF supported the Bill because under the current system the Planning Department (PD) had not considered the views of the public in finalising strategic development plans. PD based its decisions only on the criteria of the least cost, shortest project time and simplest administrative procedure. Other qualitative considerations which were important to the community as a whole had not been given due consideration. WWF believed that a more restrictive approach in harbour reclamation did not necessarily mean excessive erosion of green areas in the New Territories. There could be a balanced development. If LegCo was charged with the duty of approving reclamation proposals, the public could then have a channel to voice their views. WWF supported that other sea areas of Hong Kong should also be protected.

Hong Kong Harbour Pilots Union (HKHPU)

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1330/96-97(07))

11. Mr CHEUNG Tai-kee presented HKHPU’s views as set out in its written submission. HKHPU supported the spirit of the Bill and had no strong view on whether the Legislature or the Executive should be the body responsible for approving reclamation proposals so long as the aim of protecting the harbour could be achieved. Harbour pilots should be represented in the body responsible for assessing reclamation proposals. Harbour reclamation proposals which had been approved but had yet to commence should be reassessed in order to protect the harbour. He opined that the harbour reclamation work had already reduced sea areas in the harbour leading to rapid currents which could affect the safety of vessels moving within the harbour.

Merchant Navy Officers Guild Hong Kong (MNOGHK)

Hong Kong Seamen’s Union (HKSU)

Hong Kong Shipping Staff Union (HKSSU)

Harbour Transportation Workers General Union (HTWGU)

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1330/96-97(08))

12. Mr IP Ting-on said that MNOGHK objected to the Bill because this would provide executive power to the Legislature and violate section 73 of the Basic Law.

13. Mr NG wai-wing advised that HKSSU objected to the Bill because some reclamation works were necessary and unavoidable, such as the reclamation for the China - Hong Kong terminal and container terminals. He considered that public consultation on harbour reclamation was sufficient.

14. As regards improvements to the existing system on strategic planning, Mr HUNG Ping of HTWGU said that LegCo was not the appropriate body in approving reclamation proposals as it lacked technical expertise. HTWGU supported the establishment of an advisory committee to oversee port development in Hong Kong, including reclamation proposals.

15. Mr POON Chi-kwok said that HKSU objected to clause 4(1) of the Bill because the Finance Committee (FC) and Public Works Subcommittee (PWSC) of LegCo already had authority in approving funds for reclamation proposals. This control was adequate and there was no need for the proposed changes in the Bill. The Chairman clarified that FC and PWSC would not have a chance to examine reclamation proposals if funding approval was not required for the reclamation, such as the case for reclamation of the land for development of Container Terminal No. 9.

Society for Protection of the Harbour (SPH)

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1330/96-97(09))

16. Ms Christine LOH declared interest as the Deputy Chairman of SPH.

17. Mr Winston CHU said that under the existing system there was no organisation outside the Government which had the authority to oversee reclamation work in Hong Kong. The statutory authority of TPB was to approve town zoning plans which were concerned with land use. TPB would only be consulted after land had been reclaimed. The issue was urgent because a lot of reclamation projects were in the pipeline. SPH accepted that Hong Kong was an executive-led government, and a presumption against harbour reclamation as provided under clause 3 of the Bill would not affect the existing operation of the Government. There was a precedent in the Country Park Ordinance which required the Administration to protect areas in country parks. SPH originally supported the reorganization of TPB and bestowing it with statutory authority in approving reclamation proposals. This suggestion was considered by the Administration as having a charging effect and therefore could not be included in a Member’s Bill. Hence SPH supported clause 4 which would empower LegCo to approve reclamation proposals.

18. Mr CHU explained that TPB was not the appropriate body to oversee strategic planning which involved multi-policy aspects including land production, housing, economic development, transportation and environmental protection. There was a need to set up a Strategic Planning Advisory Council with representatives from various interested parties. According to a survey jointly conducted by the Social Science Research Centre, the University of Hong Kong and SPH, 88% of the respondents objected to reclamation and 98% supported clause 3 of the Bill.

19. The Chairman enquired whether it would serve any purpose if the Bill was passed without clause 4. Mr CHU responded that this would still be useful in imposing a statutory duty on Government officials in searching for alternatives to reclamation before making a decision. The provision under clause 3 would allow a citizen to apply for a judicial review on Government’s decision on reclamation.

III Meeting with the Administration

(LegCo Paper no. CB(1)1344/96-97(01))

20. The Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (PAS(PEL)) outlined the Administration’s position on the Bill as set out in the information paper. The Administration was opposed to the Bill, which was considered unnecessary because the existing town planning process was open and transparent, involving a thorough process of public consultation. Specific works projects were required to be gazetted under the Foreshore and Sea-bed (Reclamations) Ordinance. Approval from PWSC and FC of LegCo was also required before projects in Public Works Programmes could proceed. The Bill would also transfer the responsibility of planning and land use development involving harbour reclamation from the Executive to the Legislature, thereby upsetting the present division of responsibilities between the two.

21. Members enquired whether TPB had any role in strategic planning under the existing system. PAS (PEL) responded that the Government would carry out public consultation when drawing up strategic plans. The recent release of the Territorial Development Strategy Review was an example of public consultation. After strategic plans were drawn up, TPB would be consulted on outline zoning plans.

22. The Chairman asked the Administration to confirm his understanding that reclamation proposals which did not require funding approval by PWSC and FC would not go through LegCo, an example being the reclamation for Container Terminal No. 9. PAS (PEL) agreed that the situation as described could happen. He reiterated the Administration’s recognition of the genuine and widespread public concern about the future of the harbour, and stressed that the Administration too was committed to preserving the harbour. The Administration was assessing the public’s response to the recommendations in the TDSR and a decision on future development would be available towards the end of the year.

IV Any other business

23. Members noted that TPB’s substantive comments would only be available after 25 April 1997 and agreed that the meeting originally scheduled for 25 April 1997 would be re-scheduled for 13 May 1997 at 10:30 am. Representatives of TPB would be invited to the meeting. A further meeting was scheduled for 16 May 1997 at 10:30 am to round up the Bills Committee’s deliberations.

24. The meeting ended at 6:30 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
12 May 1997

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