Hong Kong 2030

The Hong Kong Government is undertaking a planning process centering on what the territory should be like in 2030. I've sent the following comments on a Consultation Booklet. You can find this and other information on the Hong Kong 2030 website, which includes a discussion forum.

[By mid-December 2004, the website also included summaries of comments on the plan.]

Comments on Hong Kong 2030: Planning Vision and Strategy Consultation Booklet

Martin Williams
Writer and photographer
Chairman, FirstStep Nature Tours; member, Sustainable Tourism Taskforce

Asia’s World City

This has always seemed a strange notion to me; throughout my 17 years here, Hong Kong has always been a great international city and a leading city in Asia. Thus, this aim is redun-dant, as achieved decades ago.

Harbour Reclamations

I support moves to abandon or at least greatly restrict these. Already, there are stretches of harbour front that could be developed and made world-class, as attractions for both resi-dents and visitors.

Landscape/View Corridors, and Green Corridors

These are excellent ideas.
As well as creating corridors, we must also ensure protection of most/all of these frag-mented conservation areas: notably those on relatively flat land, especially in lowlands. Sev-eral are often in areas surrounded by yet excluded from country parks: Shalotung, Sham Chung, Ngong Ping on Lantau etc.

Holistic Approach in Conservation of Cultural Heritage and Historical Buildings/Sites

Also a sound idea. But this should mean involving people – within and outside government– who are involved in harmful/destructive projects, so that they may amend or abandon plans.

West Kowloon Arts, Cultural and Entertainment District

The current plans are way too grandiose. Market forces should have a role here; exclude housing and related ventures, and see how much support the private sector gives. If little, scale back the plans.

Rural Planning and Land Management

A thorny issue, as the report notes.

It is past time to abandon certain notions/policies that were introduced in order to help farm-ers live on their land. Ideally, should include re-examination of what it means to be an “in-digenous” villager; a tough nettle to grasp, but needs dealing with.

For instance, as intimated in the report: the right of “indigenous” males to build three-storey houses is subject to massive abuse, with many houses built with the aim of renting the apartments to others. These buildings take up land – often with no regard to the condi-tion of the surroundings. Inventive solutions are needed. (Rights to contribute towards higher, less land demanding, buildings in suitable locations?)

New Container Terminals Unnecessary

The report says the port is a key growth engine of our economy.
I’ve seen arguments we don’t really need it – let alone need new terminal(s).
Is it possible, then, the port is an anachronism?

Suppose the port was slimmed down, with the services shifted to nearby China (with HK companies heavily involved).
How much would we lose?
We would gain by freeing up additional land – not just that occupied by close ter-minal(s). Great swathes of “farmland” have been smothered with container storage yards; remove these, and considerable areas of relatively flat lowland – at a premium in Hong Kong – would be freed up, for re-greening, and housing. The currently mostly ugly North-west New Territories could undergo a facelift!
Would also have less traffic, less resultant pollution. Better quality of life for Hongkongers (IF not massive economic losses; companies involved in container business mightn’t like it, but there would be beneficiaries too.)

“New” Attractions

Hong Kong is a many-splendoured place!

We don’t have such a need for new attractions – instead, need to far better promote the amazing diversity we already have. It’s pitiful that the natural side of HK can still be con-sidered “secret”. (And, come on, are you really telling me a cable car is a major attraction? Yawn. While the Wetland Park – when we already have Mai Po?!! [Mai Po could take more visitors, especially if work with neighbouring fishponds])

Lantau

Lantau is a wonderful island. It used to be known as the “Island of Prayer”, and in some parts it retains this character.

But the north shore has been despoiled; more insults are planned (logistics centre, bridge terminus etc etc). You won’t/can’t fool all tourists into believing Lantau is a great place to visit when signs of devil-may-care developments abound.

So, to draw tourists, and keep drawing them, much of the island needs protecting. The promised country park/country park extension in north wouldn’t go amiss.

Along south coast, retain current character – it’s still magical. Shoot whoever came up with ridiculous idea for a Mediterranean style resort along south coast; whatever developers may tell you, infinite amounts of concrete are not fantastic.

Instead, the long beaches, great hikes, tranquil temples (not raucous Po Lin!), villages, res-taurants, water buffaloes etc should make wonderful “attractions” – if only people are told about them (some signage may help, so too modest developments here and there; plus should involve local people).

[Sadly, no such plans are evident for Lantau; a taskforce has produced a Concept Plan for Lantau that seems to have a heavy focus on concrete.]

Eco-tourism

Hahahaha, come on, you’re joking aren’t you? The government is developing eco-tourism? I don’t think so – and I’m in one of the few companies actually trying to operate eco-tours.

No, the government so far seems rather fond of the term “eco-tourism” – it’s a modern buzzword, sounds worthwhile, maybe easy – whilst several government actions actually go against eco-tourism (especially ill-considered regulations for the travel industry; plans like the mega-prison, harbour infilling; new container terminal). (The Wetland Park may sound good, may even prove worthwhile; but won’t be ready for some time, and we already have a world-class reserve in Mai Po. Far, far more positive – and yet somehow not mentioned enough to potential tourists – are the superb trails in country parks, the Countryside Series maps and so on.)

Government should understand that “eco-tourism” isn’t some nice, soft issue. Even de-fining it is tough. Has many facets. Includes things like pollution – is it weird to promote eco-tourism when the land is so often smothered in smog? Also conservation/environment: real eco-tourists won’t be delighted if they hear of streams being ripped clear of boulders to help government build artificial lakes, or of untrammelled port developments, harbour in-filling, surrounding seas almost fished clean, dolphins hit by boats and laced with pollut-ants… (They will be and are impressed by the fact the dolphins survive and can be seen; Mai Po; regenerating forests like Tai Po Kau; remarkably diverse wildlife [“a biological treasure trove”] where new species still to be discovered; fung shui woods by traditional old villages; corals; beaches ringed by hills and backed by deserted or near deserted old farm-land; trails that are at once near yet seem remote from the city.)

We hear of grand projects, like the Wetland Park. But nature and cultural tourism (are these what “eco-tourism” means here?) will likely benefit far more from a multitude of smaller ventures, some government initiated and supported, many private.

Just a few potential examples: signage at Pui O, Lantau, could guide people along road and footpaths through old fields with water buffalo to the beach (wonderfully scenic); a wetland behind Mui Wo has potential to be a small reserve with a hide or two for viewing birds; better signage on Cheung Chau could show the way to coastal trails; transport in rural areas could become more tourist-friendly (better signs in railway stations, to places tourists likely to head for, inc bus stations; some changes on buses so tourists boarding can feel relaxed they will get off at the right place).

University Town

We seem to have loads of universities, quasi-universities. No more, please.
Not until we upgrade the “software” of the government, anyway (by universal suffrage, perchance; or maybe our leaders can take courses, obtain licences).

Eastern Corridor

Sit on this idea, leave it be. Or we’ll wind up ruining the northeast New Territories, as we have the northwest. (And what “tourism resources” are there at Sha Tau Kok? A street where pregnant mainland women make dashes for the border?)

Lok Ma Chau Loop

Come on, hands up, who thinks many Hong Kong people will really benefit from this?
Right, so let’s scrap it. (And that nonsense about HK as “Mainlanders’ springboard to the world” – crikey, whose phrase is that?!)

You really want eco-tourism in Hong Kong – well, this is just the kind of silly scheme to stomp on, show you’re serious. Instead, there is potential for improving this area as wetland, or at least for protecting it as adjunct to Deep Bay wetland (and ensuring it doesn’t add even more to the bay’s already high pollutant load) – and as buffer from the rampant develop-ment in Shenzhen.

The FCA is a bit like an unofficial wildlife reserve, so does have potential for eco-tourism. Can serve as one of those touted “green corridors” And as a green buffer for humans – giving those of us living in HK the impression that we live in somewhere with a finite amount of city, a place where you can still have a bit of space to live.

Water Supply

I’m not sure if it’s the case: but I’d vastly prefer it if as much as possible of my tap water comes from local reservoirs, rather than the Dongjiang.

Transport

Listen to Bill Barron, not road hogs. Favour rail; greatly favour it.
Pedestrianise city areas so much as possible.
Introduce electronic road pricing – drivers will kick n scream; it’s worked in London, should work here (especially as our public transport eclipses that in UK).

Development Intensity

Favour minimum use (wastage) of land area. But some balance, so not ridiculously packed in.
Yes, renovate old city areas as much as possible.

Let’s have some serious kow-towing from whoever had silly idea to build government housing (as at Hung Hom) that’s to be pulled down without even being occupied. No more such silliness, please.

And, of course, consider abandoning at least one container terminal, building housing on it.

So, go Metro Oriented.

Employment

Looks like this will largely remain in urban areas – even when existing “new towns” built, idea was that employment would shift to New Territories, which didn’t happen. For pres-tige, convenience, main offices will remain in urban areas, so too most employment (or per-haps government could abandon plans for new Central site, and move out to Tin Shui Wai, freeing up some real estate certain HK developers could put to use).

Port Development

Switch to Port Dismantlement, and Relocation.
There, far more land suddenly available. Urban developments needn’t be quite so dense.

Consolidated Development

More in-keeping with HK development to now.
So, get very intense, concentrated city; but can also have intense, “concentrated” green ar-eas – with some room for those green corridors, as well as country parks, beaches and so on, as green lungs, additional attractions for tourists, and places for de-stressing city folk.

Since I wrote this, we've learned that the projected population estimate that's important for the 2030 plans (just over 9 million) is too high. Hmm....

DocMartin

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