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Old February 17th, 2006, 02:39 AM   #101
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Harborfront use review bid fails to include Tamar plan
Hong Kong Standard
Friday, February 17, 2006

Environmental activists celebrated a small victory Thursday when the government-appointed Harbourfront Enhancement Committee passed a motion seeking a review of the strategy on temporary harborfront land use.

The nonbinding motion called on the government to beautify waterfront areas designated for temporary use by improving public access, introducing greenery, removing all unnecessary fencing and promoting public leisure and marine use with suitable facilities and the dispensing of short-term leases.

"Much harborfront land is being used for car parks or storage sites, and some has been vacant for 10 years," Business Environment Council representative Andrew Thomson said after the meeting. "In those 10 years, the public missed the opportunity to enjoy access to the waterfront."

Thomson estimated that the motion would apply to 35-40 percent of all harborfront land on Hong Kong Island.

Fifteen committee members voted in favor of the motion. Among the six government officials who abstained was Permanent Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands Rita Lau, who voiced her opposition before the vote.

"The committee is not a statutory organization with executive power," Lau told members. "If the motion involves use of government resources or manpower, we already have very limited resources and we cannot channel it all into this area."

The motion was first proposed last May by Business Environment Council representative Paul Zimmerman - who was not present at Thursday's meeting.

But Thursday's victory was short- lived as the focus of the debate soon turned to the subject of Tamar. Environmental activists called for a public consultation and enhancement review of the Central reclamation project, as it had done previously with the Central-Wan Chai bypass, but government officials were reluctant to agree.

Director of Planning Bosco Fung pointed out that the Tamar zoning plans had already been approved by the Town Planning Board and therefore did not require further public consultation. But as reclamation in the Tamar area would not be completed until 2008, Fung conceded there would still be time to "enhance and deepen" the existing plans by consulting various concern groups, but declined to give a definite timetable.

Despite the government's launching in December of a prequalification exercise for potential Tamar bidders, Fung insisted there was "still a long way to go before details are confirmed," thus allowing a window of time for further public consultation.

But other members were not persuaded. "The right time is now," Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce senior director Chan Wai-kwan said. "We should not wait until the work is done before we launch the consultation. It seems that the public is alienated from the planning for the Central area."

Zimmerman, who is also convener of Designing Hong Kong Harbour District - a group advocating better planning for the harborfront-said he plans to launch a conference in conjunction with think-tank Civic Exchange on March 18 where members of the public can view current plans, and identify alternative proposals.
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Old February 20th, 2006, 11:25 PM   #102
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Coalition of top businesses urges greener harborfront
Leslie Kwoh
Hong Kong Standard
Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A coalition of leading Hong Kong businesses has called on the government to re-evaluate its harborfront planning, warning that reclamation and development projects along the waterfront are taking their toll on the local economy.

The Harbour Business Forum - comprising 120 companies including Standard Chartered Bank, Sun Hung Kai Properties, Henderson Land Development, Swire Group and Cathay Pacific Airlines - Monday released findings from a study completed last month that found 88 percent of the public would like to see a greener harborfront.

The findings are an indication of "an increasingly mature economy," in which the public is considering how social and environmental factors affect job opportunities in the long term, said group chairman and HSBC chief operating officer Andrew Long, who called the findings "a loud and clear message."

Of 1,040 residents interviewed by phone, 85 percent also said they felt the harborfront was an international icon that embodied the "prosperity and success" of Hong Kong.

"We want what is good for Hong Kong in terms of business, and protection of the harbor adds value to Hong Kong," Long said.

The top concerns among locals were pollution (73 percent) and the amount of reclamation and construction along the harborfront (64 percent).

Almost all respondents (97 percent) said they were aware of at least one harbor-related development project, with the West Kowloon cultural district and Tamar reclamation projects topping the list.

The study also involved focus-group discussions where people were encouraged to voice their views.

"I always tell this joke to my kid: One day we may be able to walk from Hong Kong to Kowloon side," said one respondent, referring to the decades of reclamation that have shrunk the size of Victoria Harbour by half.

"I hope it remains a joke, not a reality."

Another respondent said: "I want to be proud of being a Hong Konger, having a unique harbor that cannot be found anywhere in the world."

Most interviewees wanted fewer commercial and residential developments and more walkways, cultural facilities and green areas.

The older generation, in particular, demonstrated the most emotional attachment to the harbor, with 80 percent agreeing that "the harbor brings back a lot of good memories."

Long warned that environmental factors such as pollution are increasingly important on foreign businesses' "priorities checklist."

He said he has anecdotal evidence that foreign businesses are "turned off" by pollution in Hong Kong.

While the study also found that most Hong Kongers felt there were not enough leisure facilities around the harbor, Long said the forum had not considered asking Financial Secretary Henry Tang to allocate more resources in tomorrow's budget speech.

The forum plans to launch a public design competition in mid-March for the community to share their visions of harborfront development.
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Old February 28th, 2006, 03:02 AM   #103
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Harbour activist to sue city planners
Board will not change site's zoning, yet admits that decision was flawed

20 February 2006
South China Morning Post

City planners face a lawsuit after admitting the zoning of a valuable waterfront site was flawed, but refusing to change it.

Harbour activist Paul Zimmerman has threatened to seek a judicial review unless the Town Planning Board changes its decision on the site in Oil Street, North Point, one of the most coveted plots of land in Hong Kong.

The board is waiting for an opinion from the Department of Justice on the issue.

The government plans to auction the old Government Supplies Depot, but harbour activists say the planning brief that dictates the layout, height and plot ratio of the 1.6-hectare site was drawn up in the 1990s, years before harbour enhancement guidelines were created to curb rampant development on the harbourfront.

Mr Zimmerman's move comes after he filed a request to the board last year, calling for the site to be rezoned to increase the amount of open space and lower building density.

The board agreed with what he suggested, but ordered the Planning Department to review the planning brief.

Its members agreed with the principles the harbour group had suggested, such as more open space and stepped building heights to avoid a wall effect blocking views across the harbour. But they did not want to restrict the design and layout of a future development and believed there were other ways to achieve the same objectives.

Under the Town Planning Ordinance, the government has to prepare a new outline zoning plan when a site needs to be rezoned. This requires public consultation. A planning brief, however, is a guideline that helps property developers to prepare a master development plan for the board's approval.

Legal experts said the decision on the former government supplies depot would have an impact on other sites where rezoning applications were rejected on similar grounds.

Mr Zimmerman wrote to the board at the end of last month, demanding that it amend the Oil Street decision or face a judicial review.

"The board agreed the current zoning is not right," said Mr Zimmerman, convenor of the pressure group Designing Hong Kong Harbour District.

"If it is wrong, it must be changed," he said.

"They should proceed with the rezoning. Unfortunately it decided to confine the change to the planning brief, which is non-statutory. They are side-stepping the proper planning principle.

"The reasons for doing this is to leave the power of controlling the site with the government."

He said the site had a special meaning for Hongkongers.

"Harbour protection is not just about reclamation, it is also about proper planning at the waterfront, reserving it for public enjoyment."

In his letter, dated January 20, Mr Zimmerman said the grounds for the review would be that the board had made "serious procedural and substantive errors" and "failed to comply with the statutory duty imposed on it them".

Eric Cheung Tat-ming, assistant law professor at the University of Hong Kong, said: "If the development restrictions are made statutory, the room for deviation will be small. But if it is just an administrative statement, there will be more space for departure."

Roger Ho Yao-sheng of the Mid-Levels Concern Group welcomed Mr Zimmerman's move. "Our officials lack planning vision. They only care about how much the land can fetch at auctions," he said.

The board said it ensured widespread public consultation before drawing up the planning brief.
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Old March 2nd, 2006, 02:09 AM   #104
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Zoning plan fails to protect harbourfront, top firms warn
2 March 2006
South China Morning Post

A report by a group of leading companies has found that guidelines for future development in Central are "minimal" and may ultimately lead to massive buildings cutting the harbour off from the business and political centre.

The Harbour Business Forum, a coalition of 120 leading companies and business groups, said many "desirable outcomes" referred to in the government's plans for the waterfront are not provided for, or protected, in the outline zoning plan (OZP) for Central.

The report also said that the plan covers only uses and height limits, while some sites, including the PLA headquarters, a sewage plant and a site in front of the Central ferry piers, had no height restrictions.

It noted that the open plaza of a proposed long, low-rise building near the piers - dubbed a "groundscraper" by the government - is "not actually on ground level, providing open access and views between Statue Square and the Star Ferry, but instead sits atop a two-storey building".

It added: "Many of the desirable outcomes alluded to in the outline zoning plan, and in the government illustrations, are not provided for nor protected in the document.

"There is no tool in the existing OZP that would ensure that these smaller-scale building massings, pedestrian connections or corridors are respected in any potential development."

Andrew Long, chairman of the convenors committee of the business forum, said the current harbour planning principles "need further work" because they were open to broad interpretation and needed to be tightened.

The Harbour Business Forum was set up last year in response to growing concerns within the business community over the future of the harbour. It wants the Town Planning Board to adapt its plans to meet new planning principles set out by the Harbour Enhancement Committee, which the government itself set up.

Mr Long hoped the review would give the government some ideas about alternative approaches to long-term development of Central and safeguarding the harbour.

"We're looking at the big picture, at what the harbour should look like in 20 or 30 years," Mr Long, chief operating officer of HSBC, said.

The business forum commissioned a survey last month which showed that 88 per cent of the public was in favour of a greener harbourfront with fewer skyscrapers.

The forum, whose members include the South China Morning Post's largest single shareholder, the Kerry Group, wants the government to ensure there is easy ground-level access between Central and the harbourfront.

Citing the example of the Central escalator and its effect on revitalising the Soho area, Mr Long said: "Once people had ground-level access, not only did restaurants and boutiques open up, but on second and third floors, other businesses also appeared."

"There is now a groundswell in public opinion with regard to the harbour," Mr Long said, adding that the government must look again at a variety of planning issues, including the width of roads being built near the harbour.
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Old March 7th, 2006, 05:34 AM   #105
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Tamar lobbyists plan Legco motion
Leslie Kwoh
Hong Kong Standard
Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Frustrated lawmakers and activists plan to ratchet up the heat at a Legislative Council meeting today due to the administration's "dissatisfactory" response to request for studies on the Tamar government headquarters plan.

Replying to a Legco subcommittee motion last month, the government over the weekend released 11 studies on the project, but not the one sought by legislators that purportedly disputes the need for the HK$5 billion waterfront development.

Lawmaker and Action Group on Protection of the Harbour convenor Kwok Ka-ki, who moved last month's motion, called the response "disrespectful" and a way of "cheating." He said he has already prepared a "stronger motion" to specifically request the document at today's meeting.

At least one of the studies in question was conducted by property surveyor Margaret Brooke, who earlier told the subcommittee she and her husband Nicholas were involved in a feasibility study that concluded that redevelopment of the existing Central Government Offices at Lower Albert Road and the Murray Building "was feasible on a phased basis and with a significant increase in floor area."

Brooke, who no longer has a copy of the study commissioned by the government, called the response inadequate. "I can't understand why that report would be different from other reports," she said. "Why should Legco have to ask specifically for it?"

The convenor of Designing Hong Kong Harbour District Paul Zimmerman also expressed disappointment and said he would continue efforts to increase public awareness about the "core issue."

He said: "It's not just about a government office versus a park at Tamar. People have to understand that issue is not just about Tamar, but about urban planning for Central."

Since the relaunch of the Tamar project by Chief Executive Donald Tsang last October in his policy address, the government has maintained that moving headquarters to Tamar would be a "better choice" than in-situ redevelopment, which it estimated could take up to four years longer.

Another factor spurring Tsang's decision is the high rate of unemployment in the construction sector, which could be temporarily relieved by the new project. Tamar would create about 2,700 new construction jobs, according to the government's estimate.
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Old March 8th, 2006, 02:35 AM   #106
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Lawmakers demand to examine Tamar documents
Leslie Kwoh
Hong Kong Standard
Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Plans to push ahead with the Tamar development project continued to meet with resistance Tuesday as lawmakers passed a second motion requesting the administration release documents allegedly disputing the need for the HK$5 billion construction of new government headquarters at the prime Central waterfront site.

Legislators attending a subcommittee meeting expressed disappointment at the administration's refusal to disclose studies dating from the early 1990s which reportedly indicate that redevelopment of the existing government offices in Central was possible on a phased basis. The administration responded Tuesday by saying it had made the decision to draw a "cut-off" line on studies preceding 1997 because they were "outdated."

After debating for two hours with Deputy Director of Administration Susan Mak, who insisted any further disclosure of documents would require "consultation with lawyers," a motion was moved by legislator and convenor of Action Group on Protection of the Harbour Kwok Ka-ki urging the government to present a checklist of "all relevant papers" at the subcommittee's next meeting.

The motion was passed with the minimum quorum, however, as only four lawmakers - including subcommittee chairman Lau Wong-fat - sat through the entirety of the meeting.

"It's remarkable that I've been able to ask five rounds of questions today, thanks to some members who dare not attend the meeting because they might be seen as trying to thwart [Chief Executive] Mr [Donald] Tsang," remarked Democrat Lee Wing-tat.

Lee was referring to the resignation of two members of the pro-Beijing Alliance group, Patrick Lau and Raymond Ho, just days after the chief executive declared in Beijing his eagerness to push ahead with the controversial project. Neither Lau nor Ho commented on their decisions.

Lawmakers Kwok, Lee and Article 45 Concern Group's Alan Leong were persistent in their questioning of the administration's reasoning behind its decision to go with Tamar.

"Land is the most valuable resource in Hong Kong," Leong said. "If the government makes a mistake with Tamar, it's unlikely we can find another piece of land like it. Tamar is one of the last remaining premium sites."

The subcommittee is to hold its next meeting before the end of the month.
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Old March 11th, 2006, 08:04 AM   #107
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Democrats soften opposition to Tamar use
11 March 2006
South China Morning Post

The Democratic Party has softened its opposition to the new government headquarters being built on the Tamar site, saying it was prepared to negotiate.

But the party said it wanted the original plan for buildings of up to 30 storeys to be drastically scaled down by a half or two-thirds. This would mean that only the administration's executive branch - Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and his cabinet and deputies to government ministers - would take up offices there.

Chairman Lee Wing-tat denied the party was making a U-turn and said: "We believe our latest plan {hellip} will strike a balance between public access to the harbour, protection of historic relics and providing necessary working space for a symbolic and solemn government headquarters."

The party's new stance could save Mr Tsang from humiliation as its support would give the government enough votes to push the plan through the Legislative Council.

The government will almost certainly have the 30 votes it needs for funding with the added support of the Liberal Party and The Alliance of non-affiliated lawmakers. A funding request for preliminary personnel will be tabled in Legco early next month.

Tsang Yok-sing, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, said his party would continue its opposition to the plan despite continuing rumours that it was part of a plot to oppose the chief executive.

"We have always been consistent because we believe the government headquarters should move away from Central. Many party members said if we change now, people might get the impression that we are forced to change because of pressure from the central government," Mr Tsang said.

The DAB will hold talks with officials soon, but warned the government: "Don't be too sure we are definitely going to give you our votes." A spokeswoman for the government's administrative wing said it would consult lawmakers for their views but cautioned that cost-effectiveness was paramount in the proposed relocation.

Meanwhile, the Town Planning Board may face a judicial review filed by a harbour activist group for refusing to give it extra time to persuade the board to alter the land use at the site.

The Action Group on Protection of the Harbour, led by legislator Kwok Ka-ki, yesterday asked the board to consider rezoning the site from public to "open" space until June.

The group also issued a request to adjourn the hearing to June because it was unable to provide "sufficient information" to back up its proposal.

The administration had only submitted relevant documents released before 1998 to Legco, but would submit all documents to the Financial Committee before June to request its endorsement.

"We will seek legal advice for seeking judicial review if the board should reject our request" for both the rezoning and the adjournment, Mr Kwok said.

But the board rejected the request "because those documents, which the group is requesting from the government, are not relevant to the group's proposal", said spokeswoman Brenda Au Kit-ying.
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Old March 11th, 2006, 08:05 AM   #108
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Tamar recreation bid rejected
Michael Ng and Carrie Chan
11 March 2006
Hong Kong Standard

The Town Planning Board has rejected a harbor protection group's attempt to have the planned HK$5 billion government headquarters project at the Tamar site in Central turned over to recreational use.

The Action Group on Protection of the Harbour has claimed that constructing the new headquarters will affect the air flow in the Central and Wan Chai areas.

The group also said their counterproposal to develop a promenade at the site will offer another tourist attraction and bring considerable economic benefits.

But at its meeting Friday, the board rejected the group's application, saying there were insufficient grounds to overturn the government's proposal.

"According to the government's proposal, two hectares of land have been reserved for recreational purposes. We don't see any need to further increase recreational space at the site,'' board spokesman Au Kit-ying said.

"With regard to the height of the proposed structure, the administration wing has already proposed to limit the height of buildings in the range of 130-160 meters. Such a move can also effectively preserve our mountain ridge scenery.''

Group convenor and legislator Kwok Ka-ki said he was disappointed at the board's decision.

"The board is just a rubber stamp, as the government has complete influence over the body,'' he said.

Kwok said his group will seek legal advice to ascertain whether they can take the matter further.

The Democratic Party, which previously expressed reservations about the government's headquarters plan, Friday raised a counterproposal, suggesting that the government downsize the project by between a third and a half, and increase the proportion of recreational space for the public.

Party chairman Lee Wing-tat said with the government now streamlining its structure and the number of civil servants being reduced, it would be more suitable if just the top bracket of government officials moved into the new headquarters.

"A smaller-sized government headquarters and bigger site for public use is the best way to strike a balance between the government's need for a new headquarters and the public's demand for shorefront recreational areas,'' Lee said.

Asked if this represented the party's conditional support for the government's new headquarters project, Lee said the party remained flexible and was willing to further negotiate with the administration.

Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong chairman Ma Lik, who is also a National People's Congress deputy, dismissed charges in Beijing that his party was under mounting pressure from the central government to support the government's Tamar plan.

"We still believe in our proposal to move the government headquarters from Lower Albert Road to the vacated former Kai Tak airport to stimulate the redevelopment of South East Kowloon,'' Ma said. "We are prepared to stand by this proposal which has been well-researched and thoroughly studied.'' The director of the chief executive's office, John Tsang, had earlier this week approached pan-democracy lawmakers seeking full backing for the Tamar plan.

Rejecting speculation that the pro- Beijing party had been dropped from the government's lobbying list, Ma added: ``We will not oppose for the sake of opposing, but we will work for the interests of the whole of Hong Kong. As a political party supportive of the SAR government's rule by law, we may differ with the government on points of view.

"But this does not mean there will be no cooperation.''

With 21 legislators from the Liberal Party, the Alliance and independents already supporting the plan, a government source said the administration was optimistic it could secure more than 30 supportive votes for the Tamar plan.

"We will comply with a majority decision. But we will continue to stand by our initial stance on Kai Tak and we see no pressing need to come to an immediate decision on relocating the government headquarters,'' Ma said.
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Old March 15th, 2006, 02:20 AM   #109
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Submission of prequalification applications for Tamar closes today
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Government Press Release

The Government has received a total of four applications for prequalification for the Tamar development project. Applications closed at noon today (March 14).

A Government spokesman said he was satisfied with the number of applications. Each application involves a joint venture of several companies.

The Special Selection Board chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration will consider the applications and select prequalified applicants by the second quarter of this year.

"The shortlisted applicants will be invited to tender for the proposed design and build contract for the project in the third quarter of this year, subject to funding support by the Legislative Council," the spokesman said.

The Tamar development project covers the design and construction of mainly three components: a new Central Government Complex, Legislative Council Complex and Civic Place.

On December 20, 2005, the Government invited interested parties to apply for prequalification. The Government will seek funding approval for the project from the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council in the second quarter of 2006.

If approval is obtained, the Government will issue a tender document in the third quarter of 2006 to invite the prequalified applicants to submit tenders for the contract. The target is to start construction in 2007 for completion in 2010.
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Old March 15th, 2006, 08:48 PM   #110
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Four bids lodged for Tamar project
15 March 2006
South China Morning Post

The government had received four applications for pre-qualification for the Tamar development project by the noon deadline yesterday. A government spokesman said he was satisfied with the response and that each application involved a joint venture of companies whose identities he declined to disclose. Chief Secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan will chair the board that will select pre-qualified applicants by the second quarter of this year.

Business leaders have launched a harbourfront design competition to garner community input on the future of Victoria Harbour. The competition was organised by the Harbour Business Forum, formed last year by more than 120 leading companies. It is open to all ages, but professional design proposals will not be considered. Information on the competition is available at www.myharbour.hk
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Old March 16th, 2006, 05:40 AM   #111
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Framing Tamar in politics
13 March 2006
South China Morning Post

The lavish spending on grand construction projects by local governments in the mainland has been a long-standing, controversial issue. With many mired in poverty, spending funds to promote the image and glory of leaders is hardly conducive to a harmonious society.

In Hong Kong, government leaders need no glamorous infrastructure to show they have done a good job. It is therefore baffling that Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has invested so much political capital - to quote Christine Loh Kung-wai of the think-tank Civic Exchange - in building the new government headquarters at the Tamar site.

Yet pundits say the stakes in the Tamar project have grown high, following the administration's setbacks over constitutional reform and the West Kowloon cultural hub development.

When the government decided to send the West Kowloon project back to the drawing board last month, it was widely seen as a matter of "choosing the right battle". Mr Tsang was hoping that putting that row on the backburner would help secure support in the Legislative Council for the Tamar project.

One of the administration's major arguments is that the multibillion-dollar Tamar development would create 2,700 jobs for the construction industry, currently in the doldrums. More importantly, approval for the project would put an end to the prolonged government indecision on how to use the waterfront site. It could become a showcase of the "can-do" style of government that Mr Tsang aspires to.

The tussle over the project has become further politicised in light of the complex, unsteady relationship between the administration and major parties in Legco. Opposition to Tamar from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) remains unchanged, said the party's former chairman, Tsang Yok-sing, last week. The DAB has proposed relocating the government headquarters to the former Kai Tak airport site, instead.

Tsang Yok-sing's statement followed a blitz of remarks to "support [Donald] Tsang" by state leaders during the National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference plenums, under way in Beijing.

So, however convincingly the DAB argues for its alternative plan at Kai Tak, its vote on the Tamar project will raise speculation about its relationship with the administration.

Sticking to its guns may be called a political move to avoid being seen as pro-government. Changing its mind could fuel speculation that Beijing intervened behind the scenes.

The reaction by democratic legislators will also be interpreted in the context of an increasingly complicated friend-foe relationship between the chief executive and major political factions.

Democrat legislators currently back the Tamar project, but if they change their minds they could be criticised for politicising a job-creation project.

If they continue to endorse it, that could be derided as a tactical move to show they don't oppose everything the government does, as democrat-bashers claim.

As the political manoeuvring over the project intensifies, the issues at the heart of the new headquarters plan have become blurred, and seemingly marginalised.

Now, the project has become narrowly defined as a tussle between the government and Legco or, more accurately, a game of soliciting enough votes to get it passed.

Meanwhile, the key question of whether the $4.5-billion project is justified in terms of cost-effectiveness and efficiency - in the wider context of city planning and public participation in the process - is left unaddressed.

That sounds like the last thing policymakers would want. The government has only itself to blame for failing to focus public debate on the project's merits, thus fuelling speculation about hidden political agendas.

Chris Yeung is the Post's editor-at-large.
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Old March 19th, 2006, 12:34 PM   #112
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From news.gov.hk:
Half of Tamar site set for a Civic Place
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Old March 19th, 2006, 03:53 PM   #113
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When will this process, reclamation, be done?
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Old March 19th, 2006, 06:13 PM   #114
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mosaic
When will this process, reclamation, be done?
Reclamation is already taking place. The problem is what to do with the empty plot of land afterwards. Part of the Tamar site was filled in in the late 1990s.

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Old March 20th, 2006, 09:29 AM   #115
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Thanks, HKskyline.
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Old March 21st, 2006, 06:30 AM   #116
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Government's response to remarks by Dr the Hon Kwok Ka-ki on Tamar development
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Government Press Release

In response to media enquiries on the remarks made by Dr the Hon Kwok Ka-ki on the Tamar development project in the "Letter to Hong Kong" broadcast on RTHK, a Government spokesman said today (March 19) that the development project was not only about development of a new Central Government Complex.

According to the "Central District (Extension) Outline Zoning Plan" (the relevant OZP), about half of the Tamar site, viz. 2 hectares, is designated for "Open Space" use. The Government will develop this "Open Space" portion into a "Civic Place" for the public's recreational use. The remaining half of the site will be for construction of a new Legislative Council Complex, in addition to the new Central Government Complex.

The Government has conducted assessments on the traffic impact of the Tamar development project in 2002 and 2005. According to the Transport Department's most updated figures of September 2005, the traffic flow to be generated from the Tamar project in the operation stage is estimated insignificant, and would not cause adverse impacts on the traffic flow of the Central Business District.

Subject to the funding approval of the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council, the Tamar development project will start in 2007 and complete in 2010 at the earliest. There is considerable time before the relocation of the existing Government headquarters. The Government, therefore, considers it more appropriate to decide on the future use(s) of the existing Central Government Offices and Murray Building sites nearer the completion of the Tamar project. It will better reflect and take into account future prevailing community needs and concerns, as well as socio-economic changes, in order to meet the interest of the public at large.

According to the relevant OZP, the Central Government Offices and Murray Building sites are at present zoned for "Government, Institution or Community" use. If there were any change of the existing use in future, the Government would have to follow the established statutory procedures, including the necessary public consultation process, instituted under the Town Planning Ordinance.

The Government proposes to implement the Tamar development project with a "design-and-build" approach, and at the same time attaches great importance to the design of developments on the Tamar site. We will require the tenderers to propose design schemes for the Tamar project that can blend in with the urban context of the Central District, as well as the natural environment of the waterfront setting. The ultimate goal is to develop the Tamar site into an iconic prime civic core of Hong Kong.
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Old March 23rd, 2006, 03:05 AM   #117
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Too valuable to misuse
21 March 2006
South China Morning Post

Urban density and the quality of our city planning has pretty much been determined by the way the government sells land at auction and collects premiums on its usage and density. The overriding tendency inside the Housing, Planning and Lands Bureau is to get as much for this precious resource as possible. That's a good thing if you need money for infrastructure for a thriving metropolis, but it is a bad thing if you want sound planning and a higher quality of urban life.

Recently, two incidents have shown just how little our politicians understand this process. A public consensus has formed over the past few years that we suffer from too much urban density and enjoy too little urban open space. The government's practice of squeezing as much money out of our limited land resources perpetuates this problem.

And yet, our legislators, who should know better, have decided to make decisions about two policies concerning our urban environment regardless of the facts. The first is the Democrats' mysterious position on the proposed new government headquarters at the Tamar site.

Bizarrely, the party finds itself allied with the rotten boroughs - the functional constituencies - which support the proposal. The Democrats meekly qualified their position with a warning to government planners to limit the density of the project.

But would any government employee fail to try to maximise what he or she could get for some of the choicest property in Hong Kong, especially after the hysterical criticism levelled at the grant of free land to Henderson Land's Grande Promenade project? Would the politicians have forgiven the lost revenue had the grant been used to build a park?

The fact is that even if the government built a headquarters alone - with no additional private commercial space - it would increase both density and traffic to unsustainable levels in Wan Chai, Admiralty and Central. The higher density would naturally support the government's case for another ugly road on our precious waterfront.

Is that what the politicians want?

The second, and more annoying, case is politicians' critical reaction to a recent article in the Post after it was discovered that many developers had reaped handsome returns from the government policy of exempting green spaces from those big premiums they pay. The policy provides an incentive to build flats with balconies and provide more open spaces for residents.

This green policy actually limited the government's obsession with maximising revenue from land sales. In adopting the policy, it took a small step towards treating land as a planning, as opposed to a revenue, issue. The government backtracked somewhat on this scheme recently when it rejected developers' requests to combine the balcony spaces with utility platforms, so that balconies could be increased in size. So the vapid criticism from politicians is undermining a helpful trend towards increasing the quality of our urban living spaces.

As long as the government raises revenue from land, the overwhelming tendency will be to maximise, maximise, maximise. What politicians do not seem to understand is that this will not change in any significant way if they continue to demand good planning with less density and maximised land revenue. The policy to maximise won't change until the system is reformed fundamentally, from the ground up. That means getting government out of the land business. This is a tall order, to be sure, and one that would require courageous political vision.

So we can rule it out for now.

Supporting increased density in Tamar, and undermining the green-spaces policy, just shows that lawmakers - sadly including those in the Democratic Party - have a long way to go before the public can take them seriously as responsible community leaders.

Douglas George Anderson is a journalist and consultant in Hong Kong
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Old March 25th, 2006, 06:16 AM   #118
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To go with #106

Missing Tamar report is still a secret
Officials confirm 1990 study's existence, but say Legco must make a specific request for any release
5 March 2006
South China Morning Post

The government has released 11 documents in response to a Legislative Council request for reports on the expansion, relocation or rebuilding of government headquarters.

But a report said to conclude that relocation to the Tamar site is unnecessary is not among them.

Democratic Party chairman Lee Wing-tat called the partial disclosure unacceptable, and said he would write to the administration reiterating the demand for a full checklist of documents prepared since 1990 relating to the project. The withheld report's existence was revealed last month by the South China Morning Post. Sources said the study, begun around 1990, concluded the needs of the shrinking civil service could be met by renovating the Central Government Offices and using the maximum allowed density for the Murray Building.

The government denied such a plan existed.

However, at a briefing yesterday, government sources, when questioned about the existence of such a secret report, said that private consultants had been commissioned 16 years ago to carry out a study. But they said its focus was to assess the feasibility of soliciting private sector participation in the building of a new government headquarters.

The government sources were not forthcoming about the conclusions of the consultants' study. When asked, an official source said: "The report recommended different options. None of them was taken up."

It could be made available if Legco specifically requested it, providing there were no contractual restrictions on its publication, the source said.

The sources said the documents released yesterday were mostly drafted following the Town Planning Board's decision to rezone Tamar for government use in 1998.

As such, they were more relevant to the terms of Legco's request than the 16-year-old consultants' study, they said.

Among the documents are two which concluded building a new headquarters at Tamar would deliver adequate office space four years sooner than if the existing office buildings were redeveloped.

The new headquarters planned for the site of the naval shipyard in Admiralty will be 26 to 32 storeys high, have nearly 70,000 square metres of office space and cost $4.9 billion. It will house the 3,000 civil servants working in the Central Government Offices and Murray Building.

In Beijing, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen reiterated that the plan to build at the Tamar site would provide extra job opportunities for the construction sector and offer a stimulus to the economy.

"We will certainly step up efforts to lobby the lawmakers, particularly those from friendly parties such as the DAB," he said. The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong favours relocating the headquarters to Kai Tak.

Officials yesterday ducked a Legco question about whether redevelopment of the existing government sites would generate the same number of jobs for the construction industry as building a new headquarters.

They also claimed that no detailed estimates had been made of how much the redevelopment would cost.

Construction at Tamar was expected to begin by the middle of next year, government sources said.
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Old March 25th, 2006, 06:15 PM   #119
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Making room for the people
24 March 2006
South China Morning Post

Over the past few years, organisers of the Hong Kong International Film Festival have staged outdoor shows at the Tamar site by erecting a huge temporary screen, the largest of its kind in Asia. When I looked through this year's programme, I noticed that the blurb said these would be "the last picture shows at the Tamar site". It seems there is still some misunderstanding about what the Tamar project is all about.

The major misconception is that, under the proposed development, Tamar would be used solely to build a new government headquarters office complex, which would deny the public access to the area. That is not the case.

The government's objective is to develop the site as an iconic civic core for Hong Kong. Half of it would be used for the office buildings and a new Legislative Council complex. The other half - adjacent to the waterfront - is designated as open space, and would be developed into a public, civic space.

Once the project was finished, Tamar would become a hub of activity for the administration, the legislature and the public. As a whole, the project is a balanced option that takes into account public interests and community needs. It has gone through the statutory planning procedures of the Town Planning Board. In 2003, it was supported by Legco's planning, lands and works panel, as well as the Public Works Subcommittee. The plans were put on the back burner later in 2003, after the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak. But now that the economy is performing well, it is a good time to relaunch the project.

Because the Tamar site would become a public landmark, traffic and environmental considerations must - and have - been given due regard. Studies have found that the development would have no long-term, adverse impact on the air quality and environment of the Central district. The same applies for the traffic impact. And, to protect the ridgeline view from Hong Kong Island, the government has imposed height restrictions.

We have pledged to keep a tight rein on the size of the new headquarters complex; only the staff of divisions involved in policy formulation will be accommodated there.

The public interest is our primary concern, but we also have to meet the office needs of both the government and legislators. Both the government Secretariat and Legco have had a shortage of office space for years. The existing Central Government Offices and the Murray Building are 45 and 35 years old, respectively. Annual maintenance costs alone are almost $30 million and, on top of that, some bureaus have to rent commercial office space.

After the relocation of the Secretariat, those two sites may be put to other uses. But before any decisions are made, the public would be consulted.

The Tamar site has been idle for nine years. A feasibility study on the project has been done. Subject to funding support by the Legco Finance Committee, we will proceed with the tender exercise. However, if the Legco consensus is overturned, the site may yet lay idle for a few more years.

At present, unemployment in the construction industry remains serious. The Tamar project will create at least 2,700 employment opportunities, including 2,400 jobs for unemployed workers.

Hong Kong is our home, and we love our city. After the Tamar project is completed, residents and visitors will be able to stroll in the open spaces adjacent to the administrative and legislative centre, and take in the glittering night skyline on both sides of the harbour.

The realisation of this project will be a testimony to harmony and public participation. The city's civic core will become a vibrant venue for enjoying outdoors film shows, performances or simply the magnificent harbour views.

The Tamar development would give Hong Kong an administrative, legislative and recreational heart, and is definitely in the overall interests of the community.

Susan Mak Lok Suet-ling is the Hong Kong government's acting director of administration
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Old March 30th, 2006, 01:55 AM   #120
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Hopes rise for formula to develop Tamar site
30 March 2006
South China Morning Post

The administration and two political parties are edging closer to agreement on the new government headquarters to be built on the Tamar site, after intense talks began this month.

Comments yesterday by Tsang Yok-sing, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, indicate the party's opposition to the Tamar project may have softened.

"If the government proposes some improvements on the Tamar project that can convince our DAB brothers, and if the government proposes some suggestions that satisfy our demands on the development of Southeast Kowloon, it's possible that we can consider [supporting the Tamar project].

"We have to face the political reality that if we propose to relocate the Legislative Council and government headquarters to Southeast Kowloon, we won't be able to get the majority support of Legco."

Party vice-chairman Lau Kong-wah said he hoped the government would give a positive response during the question-and-answer session with the chief executive at Legco today.

The DAB's conciliatory remarks followed a five-point counter-proposal by the Democratic Party early this month. Democrats hinted they might back the multibillion-dollar plan if their demands were heeded.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen is due to give an account to legislators today on his policy agenda in the next 15 months.

His account will include the Tamar plan, speeding up plans for the Southeast Kowloon development on the Kai Tak airport site and measures to improve air quality.

Mr Tsang had promised in his first question time at Legco in July last year that he would review his policy agenda in his current term, which will expire by July next year.

Planning for the Southeast Kowloon development will be crucial as the DAB has insisted the site would be given new life if it became the administration centre.
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