Well, maybe there’s a glimmer of hope yet for the harbour. Email from Designing Hong Kong:
"With the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance in place and the water quality improving, the key issue is no longer the Harbour but the foreshore, i.e., the land immediately connected with the Harbour.
Hong Kong will need to build capacity to handle an estimated 70 million tourist trips and 9.2 million residents by 2030. Hong Kong is destined to be Asia’s world city for global financial and business services which, together with tourism, form the mainstay of our economy.
The Harbour District – the Victoria Harbour, the foreshore and adjacent districts – defines our global brand image and is an invaluable asset in building this capacity."
Click here for the full report ‘Designing Hong Kong Harbour District’
This week, 2008, the CE called for beautifying the harbourfront in his Policy Address:
"Imbued with cultural and historical significance, Victoria Harbour is an icon of our city. All Hong Kong people cherish it as our precious asset.
The Harbour-front Enhancement Committee, and a number of community organisations, have in recent years offered suggestions and advice on ways to enhance our harbourfront. I applaud their efforts.
The Development Bureau will co-ordinate the work of different government departments to ensure the effective implementation of projects to beautify and revitalize these areas. It will set up a task force to study the feasibility of conducting medium and long-term re-planning of the harbour, improve the accessibility of the harbourfront and, in consultation with District Councils, proceed with the construction of waterfront promenades.
I hope that our beautiful harbour will remain a symbol of our city that can be enjoyed by all."
Conclusions from the 2004 study by Designing Hong Kong Harbour District
Making good economic use of the harbourfront is more than beautification and creating a few promenades. The conclusions of the 2004 study ‘Designing Hong Kong Harbour District’ are as valid today as they were then – see below:
5.3 The Protection of the Harbour Ordinance – The Ordinance safeguards the Harbour and has served to kindle controversy, but does not provided guidance for enhancing Hong Kong’s key assets – the Harbour, its stunning views and foreshore areas. Current interpretation rests on what ‘overriding need’ can be construed as. The danger therein lies that this wording can be used to justify one ‘thing’ but not necessarily the ‘things’ which best serve those who wish the Harbour to be a place of enjoyment and beauty for all. Hong Kong will not have a truly world class harbour if adversarial government and community relations are! allowed to persist in land-use planning, reclamation, transport infrastructure, and the development and management of public facilities.
5.5 An Invaluable Asset – With the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance in place and the water quality improving, the key issue is no longer the Harbour but the foreshore, i.e., the land immediately connected with the Harbour. Hong Kong will need to build capacity to handle an estimated 70 million tourist trips and 9.2 million residents by 2030. Hong Kong is destined to be Asia’s world city for global financial and business services that, together with tourism, form the mainstay of our economy. The Harbour District, the Victoria Harbour, the foreshore and adjacent districts, defines our global brand image and is an invaluable asset in building this capacity.
5.7 Space – Without reclamation, clear choices must be made between property development, surface/elevated transport infrastructure, and public open space for the remaining land in the foreshore.
5.8 Physical Access – A ‘pedestrian first’ strategy is required with a goal of ensuring ample, convenient and liberal access to the foreshore areas.
5.9 Visual Access – Open corridors with visual access to our Harbour and the spectacular views of the surrounding city are needed from as many points as possible. Where possible structures can be removed to open up views from tourism districts.
5.10 Vibrancy – More than enhancement or beautification with trees and benches, vibrancy is about the availability of entertainment, retail, food & beverage, hospitality, accommodation, arts, culture, sports, in addition to open space such as parks and promenades.
5.11 Affordable vibrancy – Tourists will follow the residents (note Stanley, Temple Street, and Sai Kung Waterfront). Care must be given to ensure that development of the foreshore does not preclude free or affordable ‘vibrancy’.
5.12 Active Harbour – Public marinas, boat clubs, shelters, moorings, piers, launches, boat storage facilities, fishing piers and boardwalks are required east of the Star Ferry along both sides of the Harbour, to promote the development of water sports and other activities.
5.13 Footprint of Roads – Given the limited space available and the domination by transport infrastructure, it is critical and logical to reduce the space used (‘footprint’ and ‘waterprint’) for surface and elevated roads in the foreshore.
5.14 Roads only Scenario – Under the current interpretation of the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance it appears that Government is adopting a narrow perception that only reclamation for transport infrastructure can pass the ‘overriding public needs test’. Combined with a policy of the ‘highest engineering standards at the lowest cost’ and building infrastructure for overcapacity, the ultimate outcome is a sterile waterfront, a harbour without activity, and a foreshore consisting of only transport infrastructure. A clear policy is required that takes a wider view of "public need" to steer Hong Kong away from this scenario. Enjoyment of a high quality pedestrian waterfront by the public should be able to meet the "over-riding public need" test as easily, or easier, ! than the need to reclaim for roads and cars.
5.15 Transport Modes – Current financing and ownership models for the different modes of transport favor vehicular traffic. A sustainable development of the foreshore, and the evaluation of all reasonable alternatives, must therefore specifically include a review of the modal split and related policies.
5.18 Institutions – It is strongly recommended that a statutory body is responsible for foreshore development such as a ‘Harbour District Authority’ with a board composed of different stakeholders, full control over areas of land, power over all facilities and infrastructure within its domain, and with clear guidelines on consultation, participation, adjudication, mediation and appeals. This body must report into a single authority at the highest level of Government responsible for land-use and transport planning.
5.21 Leisure harbour – By declaring a long-term vision for the Harbour west of the Star Ferry as the working harbour, and east as the leisure harbour (traffic limited to Cruise liners, ferries, military vessels, sailing and fishing craft and the occasional barge when needed) all different Departments, together with the various community groups, can work towards a common goal.
5.22 Examples of specific suggestions – In addition, a wide variety of recommendations were collected during the research process. Examples listed below are some of these suggestions.
Central and Wanchai – By moving the extension of the Convention and Exhibition Centre, and the new Government Offices to North Point/Quarry Bay, Kai Tak or elsewhere, the planned 13 lanes of road around the Grand Hyatt and the 6-lane P2 can be reduced significantly.
North Point/Quarry Bay – We recommend to commencing a feasibility study into submerging the Eastern Island Corridor. With the northern edge of the current road as the new harbour-front, significant land values can be created to fund this conversion.
Taikooshing – A wide underpass is recommended under the highway to connect with the Quarry Bay park, and the development of a public boat club and related facilities in the park.
Kwun Tong – Submerging the Kwun Tong Bypass can create a better connection between Kwun Tong and Kai Tak, giving living, working and leisure in Southeast Kowloon the full benefit of the harbour.
Tsimshatsui – Redeveloping the restaurant facilities of the Cultural Centre and ultimately consider removing the space and arts museum to create a visual corridor from Nathan Road.