Grannie Green Revivial

For post before Aug 09, please read it with Traditional Chi Big 5 Code

Chp 64, Conservation policy – Forty years champion for the environment

Conservation policy

After the Earth Summit, CA published its own “Agenda 21 for Hong Kong” in 1993, in which the need for a nature conservation policy was discussed. In April 1993 CA submitted a paper to the government on “A Framework for Nature Conservation”, championing the view that nature conservation should be an integral part of sustainable development. The proposed Framework consisted of the following elements:

  • a nature conservation strategy, which had been omitted so far from the White Paper on environmental policy;
  • review of legislation on conservation;
  • identifying and building up an inventory of items of conservation interests, including baseline studies and the legal and institutional backup for the Sites of Special Scientific Interests (SSSI);
  • strengthening institutional structure; and
  • using existing resources to enhance quality of life, e.g. more tree planting and nature trails.

That framework was the precursor to the conservation policy developed by CA years later. Meantime, in 1994’s submission to the Governor ahead of the Policy Address, CA again raised the issue of a nature conservation policy, among other matters. Afterwards, a Deputy Secretary Marco Wu was appointed to the Planning Environment and Lands Branch to work on a possible conservation policy. A number of meetings were held between CA and the bureau but the subject proved too difficult for the government to achieve any quick results.

From 1994 to 1998, the debate over fishponds around Mai Po helped CA articulate its own thinking on the wider issue of conservation policy. In January 1998, occasioned by the destruction of the Tsung Tsai Yuen orchard at the fringe of Tai Po Kau nature reserve, CA wrote to the Director of Planning Dr KS Pun complaining of the lack of protection of the site, then zoned Greenbelt. Warning against the “first destroy, then apply” tactic by developers, CA proposed that more stringent zoning should be applied and drastic measures such as government resumption should be considered to protect sites of high ecological value, even though they were private land.

But CA recognized that private landowners would not have their land down-zoned without a fight, and in other cases the owners might have legitimate development rights conferred by the land use zoning. On 10 May 2000, CA joined with the Hong Kong Institute of Planners to present a seminar on “Balancing development and conservation – TDR mechanism”, focusing specifically on Transfer of Development Rights. The seminar featured experts including Town Planning Board member Nick Brooke, Swire Properties’ Gordon Ongley, Sam Wong of the Antiquities Advisory Board, Andrew Lam of HKIP and CA’s Vice Chairman Betty Ho. Consensus was not difficult among the panel, who all agreed that a TDR mechanism must be developed in Hong Kong.

CA’s thinking on conservation policy was then crystallized into a policy paper in August 2000 entitled “Achieving Conservation – a Positive Conservation Policy for Hong Kong”. This was the paper that informed much of the ongoing debate on conservation policy among the government, green groups, developers and the community.

The paper started with the premise that “natural and cultural heritage is an invaluable public asset that belongs to society and posterity. It is part of the “social capital” of Hong Kong. Management of this asset in a sustainable manner will not only enhance our quality of life, but also contribute substantially to Hong Kong’s competitiveness.” The current framework on conservation which relied on partial provisions in the Country Parks Ordinance and the Town Planning Ordinance was judged incomplete and ineffective: “Areas of conservation value should not just be ‘named’. There should be a very strong presumption against development for these areas as well as a mechanism to ‘make conservation work’.”

A conservation framework was then put forward comprising, firstly, the “wild places” in the countryside, for which the Conservation Area zoning would suffice. In addition, six types of specific conservation areas were identified, all having a higher conservation value than the CA zoning, as follows.

  • Existing SSSI’s (Sites of Special Scientific Interests), which could be renamed “sites of significant ecological value”.
  • Areas which should be preserved simply because of their landscape value, for instance, Tai Long Wan and Wu Kau Tang. These could be named “sites of special landscape value”.
  • A special case of unique landscape value, namely, the shoreline. The present “Coastal Protection Area” should be such special conservation zone.
  • “Sites of Significant Historical Value”, which could be applied to individual buildings, building lots or whole areas, and thus provides greater coverage than declared monuments or archeological sites. A precautionary principle could be extended to specific classes of historical structures, such as pre-War buildings, for which applications for demolition should be subject to planning applications.
  • “Sites of Significant Rural Character” for areas of rural and cultural character such as Lam Tsuen Valley and Long Valley.
  • “Sites of Significant Cultural Value” which embody some local way of life valued by the community, for instance, the way of life in Tai O in Lantau and Shanghai Street in Yamautei.

With such a framework established, the CA paper then discussed implementation options, including

  • Government resumption or buy out, a “strong option” for “places of unique conservation and heritage value, of world-class proportion, which command such a high community value that resumption or government buy out is justified”.
  • Charitable trusts, like the Jockey Club, which may be persuaded to buy up some sites and turn them into conservation areas, with management then be entrusted to appropriate parties such as green groups.
  • Granting development rights in exchange for conservation, i.e. the so-called private public partnership approach with the developer building on part of the land and surrendering the rest to the care of the public. However, this should be used sparingly so as not to encourage speculation of “hope values”.
  • Transfer of development rights, which could be achieved through a land-swap, or extra plot ratio in areas owned by the same developer elsewhere, or monetising the development right so that it becomes a commodity which can be freely exchanged.
  • Nature Conservation Trust, similar to the UK National Trust, supported by a Conservation Bill which lays down the authority for the Trust.

CA’s paper was an oft-quoted source in the debate on conservation policy until the government’s “new” conservation policy came into being in 2004.


June 10, 2015 - Posted by | Dr WK Chan book

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: