Speech – Implementing the Kai Tak Planning to dovetail with Kowloon East development (Priscilla Leung)

President, as the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal is to commission soon, I am grateful to Mr WONG Kwok-kin for proposing this motion because this motion is by no means only related to Kowloon East. It also includes Kowloon West and the dream of Hong Kong people to build a waterfront promenade in Kowloon East and Kowloon West.

I agree very much with the proposals made by Mr WONG Kwok-kin and all the amendments. All these suggestions point to a very important natural resource that we have, that is, the Victoria Harbour. This world-class harbour is the most precious treasure of the Hong Kong people and a very important issue tonight, one which warrants our concern as to how to develop Kai Tak and take action to integrate the old and new areas as well as improving water quality in the Victoria Harbour.

Over the past five years during which I have worked in this Council, both my colleagues from the Kowloon West New Dynamic and I have been fighting incessantly with the Government in the hope of seizing this golden opportunity of the commissioning of the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal to develop a waterfront promenade with greenery and waterborne transport, including water taxis and restoring a seamless service of ferries in the Victoria Harbour. Tonight I could only focus on issues like matching facilities for waterborne transport in Kai Tak, water quality and air pollution to see how our waterborne transport can meet the needs of tourism and ease traffic congestion on land.

I am glad to hear Mr Jeff BENT, the General Manager for Passenger Services of the operator of the cruise terminal, say that as the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal can only rely on buses, minibuses and private cars for access at present, the company is discussing with the Hong Kong Government on how to perfect the transport facilities to meet the needs posed by this new cruise terminal facility. He also hopes that in future there can be a public ferry pier near the cruise terminal so that members of the public and cruise passengers can have another transport option. In May 2008 I already proposed to the then Development Bureau that all along we had been hoping that there could be a water taxi service. These taxis can ply the coasts of Kowloon East and Kowloon West and in future they can also provide a quality waterborne transport service for tourists in the Victoria Harbour as well as meeting the needs of local residents. However, it is unfortunate that over the past few years, ferry services have dwindled and ferry routes started to disappear.

I now call upon the Government to change its mind and give serious thoughts to ferry services that are struggling for survival as well as those ferry routes which, despite their termination, are still very popular with the public. These routes include those serving North Point, Kowloon City and Hung Hom. A tender exercise can be conducted for these routes and a flexible policy can be put in place so that these routes can be restored. As I can see from my own home, the ferries of two ferry routes which have ceased service are berthing near the coast. It is my hope day after day that these two ferry routes can serve the people of Hong Kong again and meet the huge demand in tourism from Kai Tak and the West Kowloon Cultural District. While I welcome the commissioning of the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, I cannot help but point out that it will cause serious water and air pollution in the Victoria Harbour. So it is a serious concern of the public.

As we all know, vessels emit exhaust which is the greatest source of pollution in Hong Kong. Cruise liners are one kind of such culprits. As the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal is to open in June and the area will become a core part of Kai Tak Fantasy, it implies that more cruise liners will make port calls to Hong Kong. For the past few years we have been working with Green Harbour Actions and pointing out that pollution and unpleasant odour brought about by vessels are a nuisance to residents. With the rapid development of urban areas in Hong Kong and Kowloon, plus the surge in population, the data available show that the sewage produced by Hong Kong residents every day amounts to as many as 2.6 million cu m and it is enough to fill 1 400 Olympic-standard swimming pools. With the commissioning of the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, I believe the water quality in Tai Kok Tsui and even Kai Tak will only become worse. And these places will even become the most polluted waters in Hong Kong.

President, it is the dream of Hong Kong people, especially those living in Kowloon West, to have an uninterrupted and accessible waterfront with greenery stretching across Kowloon East and Kowloon West. It has also been a dream I cherish ever since I have engaged in politics. However, if the sea breeze blowing to the waterfront stinks and when people jog there or ride a bicycle as the Secretary says, will this be good to our health? The answer is, I think, obvious enough. Of course we hope that the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal can attract more tourists to Hong Kong, but if these visitors can only smell an unpleasant and stinking odour as they stroll from the east to west in Kai Tak, this would be a big blemish on their impression of Hong Kong.

I know that two years ago the cruise liner industry signed the Fair Winds Charter for voluntary switch to low-sulphur fuel for vessels at berth. But at present only 17 operators have participated in the Charter and the number of their vessels take up 14% of the vessels at berth. I would therefore think that the Government should resort to using a “carrot and stick” tactic. Despite the fact that the Charter is binding on the signatories, the scope is limited. But it is better than having no control at all. I know that at present the Government offers some financial incentives by charging lower fees on vessels using low-sulphur fuel when they use port facilities and pay light dues. But I think that in the long run, the Government must legislate to require all vessels at berth to switch to low-sulphur fuel and increase the fees payable by vessel operators which do not take part in this Charter on a voluntary basis.

In the British Hong Kong era, the Governor Murray MacLEHOSE left us the MacLEHOSE Trail. I am sure if in the planning undertaken by the Government for the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, there can be an uninterrupted harbourfront promenade that gives us a savour of fresh sea breeze and a cycle track, this will definitely be an achievement of the Government and a significant contribution on which the people will surely lavish their praises.

President, I so submit.


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