Maureen Siu, Sai Kung District Officer (DO) for nearly six years, has revealed in an interview with SAI KUNG BUZZ developments that will delight some residents and annoy others. Some highlights:
- Electric vehicles to drive passengers out to the High Island Reservoir East Dam in the Country Park are being studied.
- Design of the second phase of Hiram’s Highway improvement is at “a very initial stage”, but the Highways Department has decided it will be a dual two-lane carriageway. How soon Stage Two will be built (Stage One took about 15 years to get to construction start) depends on multiple factors.
- A heritage centre commemorating the villages submerged after construction of the High Island Reservoir will open in the town centre next month.
- The District Office has no role in multi-storey building residential development, but Maureen is candid: “My heart aches too, because I worry it will change the character of Sai Kung.”
PROPOSAL FOR ELECTRIC PASSENGER TRANSPORT IN THE COUNTRY PARK
The District Office is looking at the feasibility of electric vehicle services in the Sai Kung country park, Maureen said. Buses do not serve much of the country park, only taxis do and often they are not available. There are many complaints of illegal charging – taxi fares by head and not by meter.
The DO is studying safety issues, specifications for the electric vehicles and the tendering process for the private sector or an NGO to operate the service. If introduced, the passenger service will operate from the Pak Tam Chung barrier to the High Island Reservoir East Dam daily.
HIRAM’S HIGHWAY WIDENING AND ALTERNATIVE TRANSPORT IMPROVEMENTS
All residents and businesses affected by Stage One of the Hiram’s Highway improvement have been given alternative accommodation, where eligible, and/or compensation. Every case is settled, she said. The Highways Department, responsible for the design of Stage Two, has decided after public consultation that Stage Two will be a dual two-lane carriageway. Its design is at “a very initial stage”.
BUZZ commented that as Stage One took about 15 years to get to where we are now, residents have a decade and more of traffic jams ahead of them. Maureen responded that the speed of construction start on Stage Two will depend on “how soon consensus is reached on the design and alignment, how extensive is the land resumption, the scope of the EIA study and how bad the filibuster in Legco is during the funding approval process”. (The Highways Department’s pamphlet on Stage Two can be seen at http://hirams-highway-stage2.com.hk/newsletter/pamphlet.pdf)
Alternative traffic jam alleviating measures– an MTR tunnel, a road tunnel, ferry services — are not being planned to her knowledge, Maureen said. The latter is ruled out because the sea can be very rough.
SUBMERGED VILLAGES HERITAGE CENTRE OPENS IN TOWN NEXT MONTH
A new heritage centre commemorating the submerged villages under the waters of the High Island Reservoir will be opened in the town centre in April. It will be located at the yellow-walled old school between the government buildings and the big banyan tree. Dr Lau Chi-pang, a Lingnan University professor who heads the Hong Kong and South China Historical Research Programme, is in charge of developing the exhibits.
BID RIGGING AND CORRUPTION IN BUILDING RENOVATION
“This is a big part of my staff’s work,” Maureen said. She has 100 members in her team. The District Office tries to help building management committees operate properly.
BUZZ commented that large sums of money in a few hands can lead to corruption. Complaints are made continually. Maureen said, “I have had five or six just in the last few days” on a variety of building management matters. The DO advises complainants case by case.
THIS YEAR’S SAI KUNG ARTS & CULTURAL FESTIVAL
Maureen said she is the architect of the Festival and the District Office its lead organiser. This year will be the fourth. It starts in October and runs through February, “the dry months because we want it to be outdoors.” The elements of the next festival will be the same as the one completed last month: A jazz concert at the Tin Hau Temple, Chinese opera by Academy for Performing Arts students, Art & About shows at many town locations where any artist may apply to exhibit, and folk singing, golden oldie and drama performances at Tseung Kwan O.
PEDESTRIANISING THE MINIBUS AND BUS TERMINALS NEAR THE WATERFRONT
The DO has tried to convince multiple parties that the bus and minibus terminals on the waterfront should be moved between the police station and Po Tung Road. This would allow the waterfront area to be devoted to public leisure as envisioned by Professor Fung Wing-kee, who built so much of our town (see SAI KUNG BUZZ, July 2015). Unfortunately, one councillor from outside our district has backed vested interests and stopped the proposal for the time being, Maureen said. “Sooner or later, when the timing is right, I want to see this initiative revived, hopefully with the whole community including you supporting it.”