David Newberry, Secretary, Friends of Hoi Ha, responds to Part III of our series on Hoi Ha. Are the defenders divided? Not so! The environmental movement closes ranks to protect our country parks.
“Friends of Hoi Ha are actively involved with the Save Our Country Parks Alliance (SOCP), which consists of 27 green Groups”
Your article on Hoi Ha in the November 29th issue was essentially factually correct and covered the problems well. However, I would take issue with your assertion that the environmental movement is split over the future of Hoi Ha. Friends of Hoi Ha are actively involved with the Save Our Country Parks Alliance (SOCP), which consists of 27 green Groups, including WWF, Designing Hong Kong, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Friends of Sai Kung, the Conservancy Association, Hong Kong Birdwatching Society, Hong Kong Outdoors etc. The Alliance is co-ordinating efforts to protect the Country and Marine Parks and to persuade the government that any developments within the Country Park enclaves should be justifiable, sustainable and not negatively impact the surrounding protected areas. To this end, Friends of Hoi Ha have recently briefed an emergency complaints panel of LegCo on the Hoi Ha issues, have taken part in a demonstration outside LegCo and have coordinated and assisted the many, many comments sent to the Town Planning Board concerning the Hoi Ha Outline Zoning Plan. In December 2012, FOHH submitted a comprehensive paper on the Hoi Ha Development Permission Area, which included professional assessments of the Ecological and Landscape values of the area, as well as a survey of the flora carried out by Kadoorie Farm. This paper and our recent, updated, response to the TPB concerning the Draft Hoi Ha OZP, can be seen on our website: www.friendsofhoiha.com .
“We believe that it is vitally important to fight to get the OZPs properly constructed, as that may be the best protection which is achievable – certainly, in the short-term.”
The “gold-plated” solution for the Country Park enclaves, which we have recognised all along, is that the areas be fully incorporated into the surrounding Country Parks. However, we have realised that in the face of vociferous objections from Indigenous Villagers and the Heung Yee Kuk (who are pursuing a Judicial Review over the Tai Long Sai Wan enclave), this process will take time and, ultimately, may not be achievable. In the meantime, the reality is that several areas, such as Hoi Ha, will be governed by Outline Zoning Plans. We believe that it is vitally important to fight to get the OZPs properly constructed, as that may be the best protection which is achievable – certainly, in the short-term. The “Country Park or Nothing” approach may leave us with nothing if the bid for Country Park status fails and the OZP is not constructed on sustainable lines. Meanwhile, the work carried out to help construct sustainable OZPs will be useful for any debate concerning Country Park incorporation. The TPB cannot consider Country Park status; that is the purview of the Country and Marine Parks Authority – the AFCD. The 2 campaigns, one concerning the Town Planning Board and zoning, and the other concerning the Country Parks Authority and Country Park incorporation, are running in parallel and are not mutually exclusive.
“There is strength in unity, and the SOCP Alliance, of which Friends of Hoi Ha is an active member, is united…”
A small splinter group has emerged which, although they have a few reasonable data sets, have mainly set out to denigrate everybody else’s work and claim that they have the monopoly of scientific reasoning. This group has not taken part in any of the Alliance’s group discussions or activities and, apart from a few defamatory posts on Facebook, have been conspicuous by their absence from any informed debate. The presence of this small group does not indicate a “split” of any meaningful size; in fact, there is a degree of co-operation and swapping of information over the issues of Country Park enclaves between Green Groups and Environmental NGOs in the Alliance which is unprecedented in Hong Kong. In particular, it is extremely heartening to see many of the predominantly Chinese-speaking Green groups, such as Green Power, Green Sense and HKWildlife.net, taking active lead roles within the Alliance and joining in the fight to preserve Hong Kong’s precious natural landscape and environmental resources such as Hoi Ha and the other enclaves. Thanks to the efforts of Save Our Country Parks Alliance members, more than 13,000 people throughout Hong Kong recently signed petitions requesting the protection of the 3 enclaves currently under threat from unsustainable and environmentally-damaging development, namely: Hoi Ha, Pak Lap and So Lo Pun. There is strength in unity, and the SOCP Alliance, of which Friends of Hoi Ha is an active member, is united and is the only viable group actively engaged in the protection of Hong Kong’s wilderness areas within our Country Parks.
Secretary, Friends of Hoi Ha