Position Paper on The Harbour
"Victoria Harbour is an integral part of Hong Kong that we all treasure. It deserves all our efforts to protect it and make it more beautiful ... so that our citizens and visitors can stay away from the hubbub of the city, stroll along the promenades and enjoy the beautiful scenery and refreshing sea breeze."
HKSAR Chief Executive, the Hon Tung Chee-hwa, 1999 Policy Address
1. The harbour/waterfront is one of Hong Kong's prime natural resources. It plays a central role in our aspirations to become a world city. The Chamber believes that significant enhancements to our waterfront are necessary and suggests that the following measures be taken to bring about these improvements.
· A “Harbour Walk” consisting of a promenade on either side of the harbour should be considered with priority given to Kowloon.
· Some mode of transport should also be introduced to connect the KCR station with the MTR in Tsimshatsui.
· Utility substations/installations should be repositioned where possible. Those that cannot be removed should be beautified using natural attractive colours and a distinctive design to provide a visually attractive landmark within the neighbourhood.
· Cleanliness in the harbour is imperative. Significant improvements in preventing rubbish entering the harbour and in the collection of floating rubbish are needed.
· The Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS) should be implemented as soon as possible.
· Public Cargo Working Areas (PCWA) should be relocated to more appropriate sites.
· Communication among government departments with regards to the harbour and its environs should be improved so that decision-making is transparent, consistent and less fragmented.
Promenade and Beautification of Shoreline
2. Public access to the waterfront in Hong Kong should be the established norm as with other world cities. In this regard, the Chamber proposes that a “Harbour Walk” scheme be developed using a promenade along the Kowloon and Hong Kong waterfronts. Initially, priority should be given to the Kowloon waterfront as limited work is needed on the existing walkways to be able to connect the old Kai Tak airport to the Kowloon West reclamation area. This should take no more than two years and with the right level of support and decision-making this can be done even quicker.
3. Although continuity of the promenade is desired, this does not necessarily imply that the promenade should border the waterfront throughout. It is suggested that this walkway be allowed to meander away from and back to the shoreline in order for users to access and enjoy attendant rest and recreational facilities that are envisaged to be included as part and parcel of the walkway. (See item 5 under). Concurrent with this development, efforts should also be made to improve intermediate access to the promenade very much like feeder roads connecting to a main thoroughfare.
4. In order to improve the visual aspects of the Harbour Walk, it is suggested that facilities currently located on the shoreline be either relocated, repositioned or redesigned such that they are no longer visually intrusive. This is particularly the case for pump stations and other utility installations. It is recognized that coordination is needed amongst numerous government departments, community representatives and private companies. This should not be seen as a reason for delay or indecision.
5. In order to create a more interesting and attractive promenade, it should not serve merely as a walkway but include such amenities as bicycle lanes, alfresco dining and street entertainment. The mixture of restaurants, bars and retail outlets as well as cultural activities unique to Hong Kong should, however, not only be directed to visitors and tourists but also cater to locals as well. The business community should be involved in the Harbour Walk venture by inviting corporate sponsorship for maintenance and beautification. The public should also be brought in through design competitions and feedback on conceptual designs.
6. The implementation of the measures suggested in this paper and the ongoing management of the Harbour Walk and waterfront facilities and attractions will require skillful coordination, highlighting the fundamental issue of how best to reconcile the disparate interests of the various government departments that have oversight of the harbour. In this connection, the Chamber urges that consideration be given to the creation of a Waterfront Authority/Agency to assume responsibility for the overall coordination of the initiative. However, to be effective, such Agency will need to be given a wide remit and a high degree of authority and autonomy; otherwise it will not be able to meet the expectations of the community. In the interim of such an Agency being set up, a think-tank should be established to benchmark the development of Hong Kong's waterfront against other cities such as Sydney, San Francisco and Vancouver.
Public Cargo Works Areas (PCWA)
7. The current location of PCWA in the inner harbour area is at odds with proclamations from government and its agencies to transform Hong Kong into a world city. Within government, Economic Services Bureau is seen to continue to resist popular opinion to phase out PCWA citing the need to prevent the loss of jobs. The Chamber feels that the economic benefits that accrue from other activities such as tourism, entertainment and the restaurant trade should far outweigh any likely drawbacks from the displacement of PCWA from the inner harbour.
8. The presence of PCWA in the inner harbour is regarded as being incompatible with Hong Kong's knowledge-based world class ambitions. As such, government should look into eliminating this misappropriation of space and resources for utilitarian use. Within the meaning of this, government should consider zoning the central/inner harbour for tourism and other service-based activities that are of a more esthetical appeal with existing PCWA relocated to sites beyond the inner harbour should the need exist.
9. From an environmental perspective, Hong Kong as a world city should have a clean harbour free of rubbish and a good level of water quality. The Chamber through its environment committee is already lobbying government on the speedy implementation of the HATS.
10. Improvements also need to be made in the prevention of rubbish entering the harbour and in the collection of floating rubbish.
Adding Vitality to the Harbour
11. The role and market position of Hong Kong ferries needs to be changed to that of a more up-market transport system that is clean, comfortable and enjoyable to travel on. The Hong Kong ferry fleet is experiencing a decline in custom in the face of competition from other modes of transport and poor investment in associated infrastructure. The government's cap on fares is considered to be a disincentive to improve services and quality of vessels. The Chamber, therefore, proposes removing government control for fares charged to upper deck passengers and increasing the number of ferry nodes for tourists and regular water shuttles. It should be noted that the Chamber is not advocating across-the-board fare increases with such a removal of control on fares. Rather, the objective of the proposed fare deregulation is to allow passengers a wider range of choice that would compare favourably with land-based transport. Hopefully, this will attract more patronage and help relieve road congestion. Consistent with the principle of quality transport, ferries should also strive for cleaner emissions.
12. There needs to be better transport interchange with ferries. One of the reasons why ferry is not being used as often as it used to be is the difficulty in transfer. The ferry to bus and mass transit interchanges should be improved. The ferry pier should be better utilized to generate revenue to supplement the income from ferry services in order to improve services. The MTRC and KCRC are allowed to develop properties on their stations but ferry operators do not enjoy such a privilege. If they received the same treatment as the railway, their services can be improved.
13. Government should consider rendering and allowing empty plots awaiting development more pleasing to the eye by either greening the land or turning these into interim recreational areas.
As with Air Quality, to which the Chamber was instrumental in pushing for improvements, we believe quality-of-life issues such as the enhancement of our harbour to be the lynchpin for Hong Kong in achieving world city status. We are prepared to lend support to government in the realization of such a goal.
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