LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1565/96-97
Ref: CB1/BC/6/96

Bills Committee on Protection of the Harbour Bill

Minutes of the meeting held on Thursday, 24 April 1997, at 3:45 pm in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

    Hon Albert CHAN Wai-yip (Chairman)
    Hon Edward S T HO, OBE, JP
    Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
    Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok

Members absent :

    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, OBE, FEng, JP
    Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Hon TSANG Kin-shing
Attendance by invitation :

    Hong Kong Institute of Landscape Architects

    Prof. C K WONG
    Chairman, Public Affairs Committee

    Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors

    Mr Roger Nissim

    Friends of the Earth

    Ms Lisa Hopkinson
    Campaign Co-ordinator

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 Meeting with deputations

Hong Kong Institute of Landscape Architects (HKILA)

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1330/96-97(01))

1. Professor C. K. WONG presented HKILA’s views as set out in its written submission. HKILA supported the spirit of the Bill because there had been inadequate public consultation before the Administration made reclamation decisions. The public were only aware of the consequences of the extensive harbour reclamation when the projects were almost completed. The consultation process should be improved and the membership of Town Planning Board (TPB) should be broadened to include representatives from other interested parties. As regards whether the Victoria Harbour should be singled out for protection under the Bill, Professor WONG replied that Victoria Harbour clearly had distinctive characteristics which were different from other sea areas in Hong Kong. For example, Victoria Harbour was a landmark and a tourist attraction for Hong Kong.

2. Regarding whether LegCo or a reorganized TPB would be the right body for approving reclamation proposals, Professor WONG advised that he would need to further consult the council and members of HKILA and forward the Institute’s views on this aspect of the Bill.

Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors (HKIS)

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1362/96-97(02))

3. Mr Roger Nissim said that HKIS supported the Bill because there should be a statutory requirement for public consultation with respect to territorial planning, including harbour reclamation. Under the existing system, there was no statutory obligation for the Administration to conduct public consultation on reclamation projects. The Foreshore and Seabed Ordinance was mainly concerned with compensation to persons with land rights in the vicinity of the area to be reclaimed. The Bill therefore was a first step to protect the harbour from excessive reclamation. In view of the special characteristics of Victoria Harbour, HKIS considered it appropriate to single out the harbour for protection.

4. As regards further measures to ensure public participation in territorial development planning, Mr Nissim said that in the long term, a planning authority with an independent chairman and secretariat supported by professional staff should be established. The authority should be empowered to oversee all issues on territorial planning including reclamation.

5. Regarding the Territorial Development Strategy Review released by the Administration, Mr Nissim related HKIS’ view that the Review had over-emphasized the harbour reclamation option. In fact, there was a lot of flat land in north-west New Territories for future development.

6. Ms Christine LOH agreed that the proposals in the Bill were only interim measures and a long term solution would be the setting up of a Strategic Planning Advisory Council as suggested in her briefing paper (LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1347/96-97(01)). The primary purpose of the Bill was to force the Administration to come forward to tackle the problem. In fact, the Bill could be amended to spell out a mechanism by which clause 4 would expire or cease to have effect upon the occurrence of defined events.

Friends of the Earth (FOE)

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1362/96-97(03))

7. Ms Lisa Hopkinson said that FOE supported the Bill and, in particular, the presumption against reclamation of the harbour because the current reclamation programme had brought about many environmental problems. She also made other specific comments on the Bill as follows:

  1. under the current system, there was a lack of control to ensure that reclamation proposals were approved under sound planning and environmental criteria. For example, the Central and Wan Chai reclamation had been approved piece-meal without any overall assessment being conducted;

  2. there was currently no established consultation mechanism with respect to reclamation proposals which fell outside the ambit of TPB. The Bill plugged the loophole in ensuring public participation in assessing reclamation proposals and giving more accountability and transparency in the planning process. As a long term solution, FOE supported the setting up of a Strategic Planning Advisory Council as suggested in the briefing paper on the Bill;

  3. FOE doubted the need for the current pace of reclamation which was said to provide more land for housing. According to FOE’s research, the majority of the land reclaimed was for transportation rather than housing. This would only bring more noise and air pollution to urban areas and the Administration should review its overall transport strategy; and

  4. it would be desirable to extend the coverage of the Bill to the western side of Victoria Harbour in view of recent suggestions of extensive reclamation in that area.

8. As regards the pros and cons of having a new planning authority as opposed to revamping TPB, Ms Hopkinson considered that the membership of the proposed Strategic Planning Advisory Council had a wider representation. Moreover, TPB had been fully charged with regional planning duties and might not be able to take on additional work. As an interim measure and in view of the urgency in protecting the harbour, LegCo, which was accountable to the public, was the right body to approve harbour reclamation proposals.

II Discussion among members

9. Ms LOH observed that the majority of organizations who had presented their views supported the Bill. They all recognized the extent and urgency of the problems with harbour reclamation, and supported that, as an interim measure, LegCo be given the responsibility of approving reclamation proposals. There was also a general consensus that the long term solution was an independent Strategic Planning Advisory Council as proposed in her briefing paper. She reminded members that if clause 4(1) of the Bill was passed, consideration should be given to procedures for approving reclamation proposals. If a subcommittee was considered necessary for vetting reclamation proposals, it should be formed in due course. She urged members to consider clauses 3 and 4 separately. Clause 3 which dealt with the presumption against harbour reclamation could be passed even if members had reservations about clause 4.

10. Mr Edward HO said that he supported clause 3 of the Bill but had reservations about clause 4 which empowered LegCo to approve reclamation proposals, because LegCo already had the power to reject the Administration’s application for funds for reclamation projects through FC and PWSC. However, as an interim measure, it would be appropriate for LegCo to assess reclamation proposals before an independent planning authority was established. The Bill should make it clear that clause 4 was a temporary measure and would be repealed after a specified period or under certain conditions.

11. The Chairman clarified that under the existing system, if funding approval from LegCo was not required, such as the reclamation of land for Container Terminal No. 9, LegCo would not have a chance to assess reclamation proposals. In response to the strong criticism from the public, the Administration had recently introduced some improvement to the consultation process on reclamation proposals, under which town zoning plans were prepared in parallel with the reclamation proposals so that TPB would be consulted on the use of the land to be reclaimed. However, this improvement was only an administrative measure and non-statutory. It still fell short of the expectations of concerned parties.

12. The Chairman expressed concern that if the Bill covered only the Victoria Harbour, the Administration might resort to reclamation of other sea areas in Hong Kong, such as the Tolo Harbour. He requested members to consider whether the scope of the Bill should be extended to cover other sea areas of Hong Kong. Ms LOH agreed and advised that she would be happy to extend the coverage of the Bill if members supported this approach. Mr Howard YOUNG disagreed with this approach and said that if the main purpose of the Bill was to send a strong message to the Administration about the problem of harbour reclamation, the coverage of the Bill should not be extended. Moreover, this approach would only illicit more reasons for objections to the Bill.

13. Dr LAW Cheung-kok shared the Chairman’s concern that restricting reclamation to the Victoria Harbour could force the Administration to reclaim other sea areas in Hong Kong. He had reservations on the proposal in clause 4 of the Bill.

14. The Consultant/Legal Service Division (CON/LS) drew members’ attention to the extent to which a Bill’s purpose could be amended at Committee stage. For example, if the purpose of the Bill was changed to the protection of all sea areas in Hong Kong, then the proposed amendments would likely be beyond the scope of the Bill. If this approach were adopted, it might introduce so many issues for discussion and consideration that the amended bill might become a completely different bill by Committee stage. The President of the Legislative Council might eventually have to rule on the scope of Committee stage amendments when Second Reading debate on the Bill was resumed. Members agreed that Ms LOH should sort out the legal constraints with CON/LS on how far the scope of the Bill could be extended.

15. Members asked whether the boundaries of the "harbour" could be delineated on a map. CON/LS advised that "harbour" as defined in the Bill was the same as that defined in section 3 of the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance (Cap 1) which was a descriptive delineation. If members considered a need for the delineation of the "harbour" to be shown on a map, the Administration should be requested to do so in accordance with the description of the harbour in Cap. 1 of the Laws of Hong Kong.

16. Regarding the usefulness of clause 3 if clause 4 of the Bill was deleted, CON/LS advised that clause 3 would be effective in imposing a duty on public officers to consider alternatives other than reclamation before making a decision. Under the right circumstances, the presumption could be enforced in court.

III Any Other business

17. The Chairman said that representatives of TPB would be invited to the next meeting scheduled for Tuesday, 13 May 1997, at 10:30 am.

18. Ms LOH agreed to consult CON/LS with regard to the scope of the Bill, including the method for delineating the harbour and the mechanism for specifying that clause 4 of the Bill would be repealed after a specific period or upon satisfaction of certain conditions.Ms LOH

19. As requested by the Chairman, the Clerk would prepare a summary of the views on the Bill as expressed by interested parties.Clerk

20. The meeting ended at 5:00 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
12 May 1997

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