The Hoi Ha rezoning that envisages 84 new houses highlights a worrying pattern repeated all over Sai Kung, according to Friends of Sai Kung Chairman John Wright.
The Government is using “spurious figures” of estimated demand “made up by village representatives” to justify rezoning villages in favour of developers, John said. The activist accuses officials of manoeuvring “by stealth”, consulting with district councils and rural committees largely manned by Heung Yee Kuk members and their allies, but not with the public.
FSK and Save Our Country Parks Alliance, made up of 27 environmental groups and other NGOs, are campaigning against “massive expansion of houses in country park enclaves”, he said. Debbie Chan Ka Lam of Designing Hong Kong has applied for judicial review of the outline rezoning plans for Hoi Ha, Pak Lap and So Lo Pun. John, a barrister, has advised.
The “Golf and Tennis Academy” and Hiram’s Highway expansion are indicators of this rush to overdevelopment. FSK gathers evidence, consults residents and other groups, feeds data to officials and lobbies day after day, John said, usually with no response by government.
He outlined other issues concerning FSK:
AIR POLLUTION: FSK wants an air quality monitoring station in Sai Kung town. “At present we have to rely on readings and alerts from Shatin on the far side of the Ma On Shan mountain range.”
COUNTRY PARK PRESERVATION: There are worrying signs that the government is softening up the public ready to lop off chunks of the country parks for development. “It is all premised on the fallacy put about by government that there is a shortage of land.” John said. This is while developers sit on large land banks waiting for the right market conditions, big areas of brownfield sites, including scrap yards and old industrial plots are poorly used and the government sits on land itself. Carving up the country parks in collusion with developers would be “monstrous”.
WATER POLLUTION: Too many septic tanks are close to the sea or water courses. “If you have 50 septic tanks in a village you’ve got an area that is saturated and filth is going to get into streams, ” John said. “Officials have got their heads in the sand, which is full of sewage.”
It is a crying shame to see the coastline smeared by plastic and other human-discarded junk. “We collect evidence, photos of sea caves waist deep in plastic and polystyrene, for example,” John said. They feed information to the Government and lobby some more.
WASTE DISPOSAL: The recycling bins that the Government places near refuse collection centres in our communities are “a facade”. The Government does not do recycling, so the waste ends up in landfills. It’s all a pretence. Officials’ minds are closed, fixated on billion-dollar concrete-pouring projects such as the Shek Kwu Chau incinerator which will not remove the need for landfills. Progressive solutions are ignored.
Plans for government-charging of residents for rubbish disposal are unnecessary and will not work. “This will result in fly-tipping.” Waste separation at source is needed.
BICYCLES: FSK has spent years lobbying for better treatment of cyclists in Sai Kung. They met District Officer Maureen Siu in 2013, John saId, seeking more parking spaces for bikes, among other things. Now Sai Kung has a total of only six bike park spaces, he said. The safe cycling paths sought have been rejected.
Many people are incensed by Lands Department confiscation of bicycles. “The Government is not friendly to bicycles which it regards as a nuisance.” The department uses a law intended to remove illegal structures on government land to justify confiscating bicycles without compensation, sometimes when they have been left for less than a day. The confiscated bikes lie in their hundreds under tarpaulins by the main road running down to Ho Chung.
John has lived in Hong Kong for 32 years, 31 of them in the Sai Kung area and 21 years in Sai Kung Country Park. His home with his wife and two sons is in Hoi Ha.
He would be happy to step down as FSK Chairman –“we need fresh blood” — but fears no one will come forward and he will have to carry on, despite the need to work on his law practice.
The FSK annual meeting is on April 16 at 7pm in Italiano’s. John urges residents to come forward to help with its work.