LCQ2: New nature conservation policy
Following is a question by the Hon Tony Tse and a reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (May 18):
The Government introduced a new nature conservation policy at the end of 2004 to better achieve the nature conservation objectives and, in particular, to enhance conservation of ecologically important sites which are in private ownership. Under the policy, the Government has identified 12 priority sites for enhanced conservation (priority conservation sites) and for implementation of two pilot schemes, namely the Management Agreement Scheme (MA Scheme) and the Public-private Partnership Pilot Scheme (PPP Scheme), to conserve these ecologically important sites. Under the MA Scheme, eligible non-profit making organisations will receive funding for entering into MAs with the landowners of conservation sites for enhancing the conservation of the sites concerned; whereas under the PPP Scheme, limited development by the proponents will be allowed at the ecologically less sensitive portion of the priority conservation sites, provided that the development plan and scale are agreed by the Government and the proponents undertake to conserve and manage the rest of the sites that is ecologically more sensitive on a long-term basis. However, some members of the surveying sector have relayed that it has been more than 10 years since the implementation of the aforesaid policy and, apart from setting up a small-scale conservation area of about two hectares at Wo Shang Wai, Yuen Long, the policy has not achieved any notable progress and results in other conservation sites. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the number of agreements entered into so far under the MA Scheme, and set out, by priority conservation site, the name of the managing organisation, the amount of funding granted and the size of the conservation site under each agreement, as well as the date on which the agreement was entered into and its validity period; the number of applications rejected; and the number of applications which were approved but ended up with no agreement entered into and the reasons for that;
(2) of the number of applications received by the authorities so far under the PPP Scheme, and set out, by priority conservation site, the date of submission, the proposed scale of development, the date of completion of the vetting and approval procedure and the result of each application; the number of applications still in the process of vetting and approval; and
(3) whether it conducted a comprehensive review in the past three years of the specific implementation, the vetting and approval mechanism and the effectiveness, etc. of the aforesaid two pilot schemes; if it did, of the review outcome, follow-up work and overall effectiveness of the two schemes as well as the new nature conservation policy (including whether the intended results were achieved); if not, the reasons for that and whether it will conduct such a review?
Having taken into account social and economic considerations, the Government introduced a new nature conservation policy in 2004 to regulate, protect and manage natural resources that are of utmost importance for the conservation of the biodiversity of Hong Kong in a sustainable manner. We aim to identify practicable ways to better achieve the nature conservation objectives. In particular, we aim to enhance conservation of ecologically important sites that are under private ownership while respecting the landowners’ property right. Following the assessment by experts and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), the Government has identified 12 priority sites for enhanced conservation and launched the Public-private Partnership (PPP) Scheme and Management Agreement (MA) Scheme. Hon Tse has already stated the principle of the PPP Scheme in his question. As for the MA Scheme, funding support is provided under the Environment and Conservation Fund (ECF) to competent non-profit-making organisations (NPOs) to enter into MAs with landowners of the conservation sites. By providing financial incentives, both Schemes encourage the participation of landowners, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the private sector in nature conservation in Hong Kong.
Our replies to the questions raised by Hon Tse are as follows:
(1) Of the 12 conservation sites, those in Fung Yuen, Long Valley and Ho Sheung Heung, Ramsar Site and Deep Bay Wetland outside Ramsar Site are under MA projects whereby the NPOs and landowners co-operate to conserve. Since 2005, the funding support provided by the ECF has amounted to some $87 million (see the Annex for details). The NPOs concerned are all experienced in nature conservation.
(2) Under the PPP Scheme, limited development by the project proponents will be allowed at the ecologically less sensitive portion of the 12 conservation sites, provided that the development plan and scale are agreed by the Government and the proponents undertake to conserve and manage the rest of the sites that is ecologically more sensitive on a long-term basis. The project proponents will also be required to make an upfront lump sum donation to the ECF sufficient to support the pledged conservation programmes, and to identify competent bodies as their conservation agents. This Scheme not only encourages the participation of the private sector and NGOs in nature conservation, but also balances between development and conservation.
We have so far received a total of six applications to carry out PPP projects at the 12 conservation sites. In 2008, the Advisory Council on the Environment (ACE) supported in principle the Sha Lo Tung project after deliberation.
Since the Sha Lo Tung project is a designated project under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (EIAO), the relevant environmental impact assessment (EIA) report was exhibited for public comment in 2012. Having considered the report at the meeting on July 2012, the ACE decided that the proponent should provide further information for its re-consideration. As the proponent has yet to provide the required information, the EIA process of the project has not been completed. Furthermore, the project has to comply with all relevant legislative and policy requirements.
Meantime, the Government has received a development proposal at Fung Lok Wai. The EIA of the proposed development was endorsed in November 2009 while the planning application was approved in November 2013. At present, relevant government departments are waiting for the project proponent to finalise the details of the proposed development to ensure its compliance with the conditions imposed in the approved planning application.
(3) The Government reviewed the two schemes in 2011 and made the following enhancements. Firstly, the ECF agreed that the scope of the MA Scheme be extended to cover private land in country park enclaves and within country parks. Moreover, to ensure the sustainability of the pledged conservation programmes under the PPP scheme, the Government will require the project proponents to make an upfront lump sum donation to the ECF sufficient to support the pledged conservation programmes, and to identify competent bodies as their conservation agents, with a view to implementing the conservation arrangements set out in the approved EIA report on a long-term basis. We will review the implementation and effectiveness of relevant policies and measures from time to time and will conduct review again where necessary.
Since the implementation of the MA Scheme, the total number of bird species recorded in Long Valley increased from 221 in 2005 to over 300 in 2015, representing more than half of the bird species in Hong Kong. The new MA project on fishponds implemented in 2012 has also benefited birds inhabiting wetlands as the water level of the fishponds at Ramsar Site and Deep Bay Wetland has been lowered since then. The fishponds have become attractive feeding sites for birds and the number of egrets may thus multiply by dozens. In addition to the benefits stated above, the MA project has also raised public and community awareness of nature conservation.
It can be seen from the above that the MA Scheme has made positive achievements since its implementation. We will continue to encourage various NGOs and community organisations to participate in the conservation of suitable sites through the MA Scheme. For the PPP Scheme, compliance with the respective requirements on conservation, planning and land development inevitably generates diverse views among the stakeholders concerned and it is not easy to strike a balance. As such, it takes longer time to implement projects under the Scheme.
Apart from the above, the Government has taken other measures to implement the conservation policy. They include managing and designating country parks, special areas, marine parks, marine reserves and conservation areas; formulating and carrying out conservation action plans for species and habitats of conservation importance; and minimising works at sites of high ecological value by enforcing the EIAO so as to address the aspiration of our society for nature conservation.
Ends/Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Issued at HKT 14:23