Monday, 25 June 2018

Procrastination at its Finest

The government still can't decide what to do with areas near the waterfront
For years there have been talks about what to do with Hong Kong's harbourfront, particularly on the Hong Kong Island side. The Harbourfront Commission was established in 2010 and essentially advises the government on what to do with the land that lines Victoria Harbour.

It was previously called the Harbour-front Enhancement Committee.

The group had already spent six years studying how best the government could develop the 73km waterfront, and suggested a statutory authority needed to be set up to centralize responsibilities for related matters.

There were big hopes that when Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor became Chief Executive, she would be more active in moving forward with the commission's recommendations.

Harbourfront Commission chairman Nicholas Brooke
However, last October she did a complete U-turn and said she did not intend to set up the HK$10 billion harbourfront authority.

The most recent news is that members of the Harbourfront Commission were flabbergasted when Rosalind Cheung Man-yee, the Development Bureau's principal assistant secretary for the harbour, proposed a plan to use some of the HK$500 million fund earmarked for harbourfront enhancement to conduct a two-year study exploring various management models, such as cooperating with district-based non-governmental groups and private companies, using overseas examples.

Commission member Vincent Ng Wing-shun, a leading architect was "confused" as to what the study would achieve. He said back in 2008 the commission set up a task force that spent three years looking at suitable models and referenced overseas examples from visiting such places as Sydney, Singapore, Liverpool, London, Vancouver and San Francisco.

"We had been studying it for six years but the government ended up discarding our suggestion," Ng said. "If we now study again... I don't know what exactly we want to achieve in the end. I put a very big question mark on that."

Residents are waiting to enjoy the harbourfront
The commission's chairman, Nicholas Brooke, urged the government to review the plan.

"I sense it's going to be difficult for this commission to endorse this study, if they believe for the right way forward is the harbourfront authority," he said. "How can we support something which we don't think is necessarily the right answer?"

Did Cheung think the commission would readily accept yet another study and allow officials to go travel around -- at taxpayers' expense -- and then write yet another report that would not be heeded?

What we don't understand is what all this foot-dragging is about. Surely developing the harbourfront is in the best interests of the city -- particularly for tourism? The other benefit is more public space for residents to enjoy. Surely they are entitled to access to the harbourfront so that it's not just office buildings and hotels that get the prime spots?

Or is it because Beijing may want control of the harbourfront -- perhaps for security reasons -- and so the government is dragging things on as long as it can so that people will hopefully forget about it?

It's very strange for the government not to move on something as important as this when tourism is considered one of its four economic pillars. This would also be a make-work project, employing construction workers and later establishing businesses along the harbourfront.

Sounds like there's now a stalemate between the commission and government officials, with the latter winning this round...

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