反對「破壞大澳景貌」工程 (Objection to the Tai O ‘renovation’ project)
Damages under the name of ‘renovation’
In November 2004, the local government launched Concept Plan for the Development of Lantau Island with an objective to preserve the cultural heritage and natural resources of Tai O’s old fishing villages. The Concept Plan also suggested carrying out certain construction projects with a view to enhancing the local attractions of Tai O. On September 23, 2007, the Civil Engineering and Development Department held a consultation meeting titled Tai O Renovation, jointly with the Planning Department and an environmental engineering consulting company (邁進基建環保工程顧問有限公司), and announced a budget of 620 million dollars for the required construction works. However, the consultation period was no more than one month.
The Tai O Culture Workshop finds that those construction works are damages under the name of ‘renovation’. The whole planning was built on old mindsets, trying to implant an iconic theme park on a traditional fishing village abruptly through top-down policy implementation. This is totally going against the conservation of community lifestyles as well as the principles of sustainability and public participation. The Tai O Culture Workshop wishes to express its deep regret and strong opposition against the project.
The construction works covered by the 620-milllion budget include:
1. Tai O Road entrance square; a theme fountain; sculptures; stone carving; shorefront wooden walk-way and a public transport transit area.
2. A riverfront park to the north of Lung Tin Estate; a shorefront walk; Tung Chung River bridge
3. A shorefront walk along Tai O River’s south bank; a pedestrian bridge over Tung Chung River; tourist facilities;
4.Shek Tsai Po shorefront walk; a shorefront plaza; a Chinese-style park; a water lily pond;
5.An ethnic museum in stilt-house style;
6. A flat wetland to the south of Buddhist Fat Ho Memorial School;
7. A nature’s walk, a shopping walk and cultural relic signage designed for tourists;
8. A helicopter landing pad.
Tai O to be turned into a synthetic tourist spot
In developing Tai O, the government is not taking a people-oriented approach, nor trying to meet the actual needs of the community. Neither does it abide by the principle of sustainable development. Tai O has a history of over a thousand years. The water village culture precipitated from the everyday lives of Tai O people is among the few left in the world. The customs and moods of Tai O water village, together with the picturesque natural economy, are the best manifestation of the local culture. The unique tradition and stylish natural environment of Tai O tell exactly the reasons why the village has become an alternative learning place and general education site for school students, as well as a cultural eco-tourism spot for Hong Kong people and tourists alike. Unluckily, Tai O will soon be turned into a synthetic, commercialized and ordinary community integrated with a theme park, in the hands of some naïve, conservative and bureaucratic government officials. The local characteristics and the beautiful natural environment will soon be totally destroyed. Tai O will never be Tai O any more, but will only become a synthetic tourist spot.
A urban planning ignoring the cultural lifestyle of local communities
The government’s Tai O Renovation project costing a huge investment of 620 million dollars pays no respect to local lifestyle, and does not contribute at all to cultural preservation or ecological conservation. On the other hand, it is gravely damaging the local cultural characteristics and ecological environment. As far as the interactions the Tai O Culture Workshop has made with the visitors tell, local and overseas visitors are not attracted to Tai O by any iconic plaza or theme park, but rather by the original lifestyle, culture, people and natural scenery. Therefore the 620-million Tai O Renovation project will definitely not be able to promote community economy or enhance the attraction towards tourists.
Damaging works carried out repeatedly
In fact, a number of big development works carried out at Tai O already by the government have been proven to cause irreversible damages further reducing the sustainability of Tai O. For example, the government spent 200 million dollars in 1995 to build the second-phase public housing units at Lung Tin Estate, which has been scarcely populated ever since its completion. In 2003, the government spent another 280 million dollars to build a fishing boat berthing area, yielding no economic benefit as the boats have chosen to return to Tai O. On the other hand, the new berthing area ruins not only the beautiful sunset scenery but also the surrounding ecological environment. The large-scale excavating works as part of the construction project have adversely affected the foundations of the surrounding stilt houses, posing risks to the lives, properties and safety of the residents. However, the government has not learnt any lesson from the wrong planning and spending, and even repeated its mistakes by implementing the Tai O ‘renovation’ project.
The government only briefly announced its Tai O Renovation plan on the public forum held at September 23, without providing the general public with any consultation paper. Moreover, the consultation period lasted for as short as one month. All these seem to be a means of administrative domination, and the so-called consultation seems to be a fake one without sincerity.
What We petition for:
On the grounds stated above, the Tai O Culture Workshop wishes to express its deep regret and strong opposition, and it requests the government to:
1. safeguard the community lifestyle and follow the principles of sustainability and public participation in its planning;
2. serve the purpose of protecting and conserving the cultural heritage and natural ecological environment of Tai O;
3. disclose all consultation papers to the public and substantially open more public participation channels;
4. extend the consultation period.
Wong Wai King
Tai O Culture Workshop
October 4, 2007
Contact telephone number: 9626-9671