Speech – Implementing the Kai Tak Planning to dovetail with Kowloon East development (Lo Wai-kwok)

President, my childhood years were spent in To Kwa Wan and Kowloon City where I received my primary and secondary education. After my junior secondary schooling, I moved to Ngau Tau Kok, Kwun Tong, and I initially lived in San Po Kong after I started to work. I had lived in Kowloon East for more than 30 years in total before I left. Hence, it can be said that my sentiment about Kai Tak and Kowloon East is quite strong.

The berthing of the first cruise liner, named “Celebrity Millennium”, at the new Kai Tak Cruise Terminal on 16 March in a berth trial is greatly symbolic, for the sites in Kai Tak have fallen into disuse for exactly 15 years since the relocation of the Hong Kong airport to Chek Lap Kok in 1998. It is scheduled that on 12 June or the Dragon Boat Festival this year, the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, which costs more than $8.1 billion to build, will officially receive another 138 000-ton luxury cruise liner, Mariner of the Seas. The original site of a former airport is expected to be filled with large numbers of tourists again.

In fact, the Kai Tak New Development Area (NDA) is currently the largest urban waterfront development project in Hong Kong with a total area of more than 320 hectares. Besides a cruise terminal, there are also tourist facilities such as hotels and retail outlets, a sports stadium, and commercial and residential sites. The development of Kai Tak into Kowloon’s new core area will drive the development of adjacent areas. It will not only inject new momentum into the development of Hong Kong, but also provide living space for the people and bring a lot of business start-up and employment opportunities. Given its diversified purposes of embracing tourism, commercial activities, sports, culture, housing and healthcare, the Kai Tak NDA is a considerable challenge to the overall planning. With the successive completion of the various projects in the area, can its adjacent areas catch up with it in terms of planning and ancillary facilities? Have proper preparations been made by various parties? The balancing of the diverse needs and aspirations of the tourists and residents has
posed the biggest challenge to the overall planning of Kai Tak.

The Kai Tak Cruise Terminal has now replaced the Disneyland as Hong Kong’s largest tourism infrastructure project. Before the completion of this terminal, the Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui was Hong Kong’s major cruise terminal, which not only provides tourists with direct access to the urban area, but also enables them to enjoy the beautiful scenery on both sides of the Victoria Harbour. However, since it can only accommodate small and medium cruise liners, cruises exceeding 100 000 tons were previously compelled to berth at the Kwai Chung Container Terminal. The completion of the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal is expected to make up for its inadequacy. Nevertheless, judging from the trial results of the berthing of “Celebrity Millennium”, there is still room for vigourous efforts to be made to improve the facilities for receiving tourists. For instance, since the transport services for access to urban areas have not yet commenced, shuttle buses were arranged for the transportation of tourists. This, coupled with the lack of major shopping centres at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, has made access and shopping inconvenient for tourists. According to the construction plan of the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, the retail shops in its terminal building will take up an area of approximately 60 000 sq ft only, which is far less than the 540 000 sq ft available at the Ocean Terminal. As it is getting closer and closer to the official commissioning date of the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, I hope the authorities concerned can expeditiously face these issues squarely and solve them.

President, the development of tourism projects with local characteristics is essential to the successful development of cruise tourism and attracting tourists to stay in Hong Kong for spending. The large number of cultural monuments in Kai Tak and adjacent areas and food premises in Kowloon City can be developed into featured projects embracing historical monuments and oriental delicacies. The authorities concerned can also make good use of the waterfront areas in Kowloon, and even the waterborne transport facilities in Lei Yu Mun, for the comprehensive development of local cultural and creative spaces, markets, tourism and leisure facilities, and so on. On the other hand, the authorities concerned should collaborate with Mainland and overseas ports in designing cruise routes to attract tourists and link with other tourist spots and theme parks to maximize synergy.

Certainly, from experience gained in promoting the Individual Visit Scheme for Mainland tourists, the arrival of a large number of inbound tourists might bring inconvenience to people living in the adjacent areas, if relevant ancillary facilities are not properly provided. This is yet another major challenge to perfecting the planning for Kai Tak. In my opinion, the authorities concerned must address three major issues squarely. Regarding the first issue, namely ancillary transport facilities, the traffic capacity of various connected roads and even the overall transport network in Kowloon must be comprehensively reviewed to assess whether they are capable of coping with the daily needs of local residents and the demand for receiving tourists.

Regarding the second issue, namely ancillary community facilities, one of the concerns is that shop rents in the adjacent areas might be pushed up as a result of the implementation of Kai Tak planning and Energizing Kowloon East. This will not only impose a heavy burden on small business traders in the area, but also stifle the opportunities for people wishing to start their own businesses, making it difficult to create a diversified business environment and ultimately affecting the provision of diversified options and services to residents and tourists. The authorities concerned should expedite the progress of building the Trade and Industry Tower in Kai Tak, and enable government building clusters to move into Kai Tak expeditiously, so that more land can be provided for commercial development.

As for the third issue, namely green ancillary facilities, on the first day of the berth trial at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, some green groups came to stage a protest, claiming that the entry of a cruise liner into Hong Kong would cause serious air pollution to nearby areas, given that the Cruise Terminal has yet to be equipped with on-shore power supply systems and the cruise company has refused to give up using highly polluting fuel.

President, subsequent to the announcement by the SAR Government on 19 March of the provision of two plots of land in the Kai Tak Development Area under “Hong Kong property for Hong Kong residents”, the authorities concerned must perfect the overall planning of Kai Tak and, what is more, expeditiously give the public an account of the relevant adjustment package, including the proposal to increase the plot ratio and population, so that a full discussion can be facilitated in the community.

President, I so submit.