Clear The Air News Blog Rotating Header Image

May 21st, 2016:

Biodiversity steering committee ends three years of work ‘disappointed’

Environment Undersecretary Christine Loh Kung-wai apologised to committee members and said she hoped the work their work would continue

Members of a steering committee tasked with preparing the city’s first biodiversity action and strategy plan (BSAP) have ended three years of work without receiving a draft report from the government.

Disappointed members – whose terms expire this month – had expected a draft before their final meeting on Friday but were presented only with a summary of the public consultation results and a rough outline of what the report would cover.

Members pointed out that their 2013 letter of appointment had tasked them with “steering the formulation process”, “consider recommendations” and to “ratify the final draft of the BSAP” before its submission to policymaking bodies.

“We were asked to ratify the document. This was the task we were given and we need to know if our task had been truncated and why,” said member Paul Zimmerman.

Member Ruy Baretto was concerned that the committee was missing out on a crucial step of the process and called on the authorities to present a final draft to them for scrutiny at another meeting. “We are being pushed off the boat before the boat reaches the harbour and this is unacceptable,” he said.

Professor Jim Chi-yung added: “We are all quite disappointed because members had expected a draft report today but all we got was a table of contents.”

Agriculture Fisheries and Conservation Department assistant director Simon Chan Kin-fung believed there may have been some “confusion” with their roles. This was followed by an apology by Environment Undersecretary Christine Loh Kung-wai.

“We could not have given the so-called ratification to another body that is outside the government’s usual framework of dealing with policy,” Loh said. “I hope members will accept our apology and be willing to go on with the process in place.”

Loh also said there were no plans to extend members’ appointments and that the government was ready to finish the report and commence ministerial-level discussions.

She expected the final report to be published within the year.

The government received 2,444 submissions to a three month public consultation, which ended last month. Of these, 126 were individual submissions – most of which came from green groups – 85 were group submissions and 2,231 were standard “templates” submissions.

According to the department’s summary, “many” supported the extension of protected areas and there was “general support” for enriching urban biodiversity.

It acknowledged that green groups demanded 10 per cent of Hong Kong waters to be marine protected areas and that local communities emphasised the need to “respect land rights”. “Some” requested for the review of relevant legislation and policies.

To implement the BSAP plan, the AFCD has been allocated with HK$150 million to spend up to 2019. An advisory body and inter-departmental working group would also be formed to oversee its implementation.