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Green group hits at consultation on third runway

South China Morning Post – 10 Jan 2012

Environmentalists say public has been misled but survey designers reject the allegations

A green group has accused the University of Hong Kong and the Airport Authority of misleading the public into supporting the building of a third runway at Chek Lap Kok with a consultation full of loaded – and leading – questions.

Green Sense chief Roy Tam Hoi-pong said yesterday the survey – released on December 29 – which found that more than 70 per cent of respondents supported the expansion of Chek Lap Kok airport, was “full of problems” and should be regarded with scepticism.

For instance, he said, the heading “Contribution of the airport” appeared over the survey’s first question, which asked respondents if they agreed the airport had provided high-quality services, and created employment. But the heading was improper because the word “contribution” implied a positive result, he said. Benson Wong Wai-kwok, assistant professor of politics at Baptist University, told yesterday’s press conference: “The word `use’ would have been a lot more suitable in the survey.” Another criticism was that the survey put too much emphasis on the extra runway’s economic benefits and too little on its environmental impact.

Tam accused the University of Hong Kong’s Social Sciences Research Centre, which was commissioned by the authority to carry out the survey, of pandering to the government and sacrificing academic integrity for money.

Professor John Bacon-Shone, the centre’s director, rejected the accusations and said the green group was not competent to criticise the design of the survey “because we’re the experts and they’re not”.

“What they said is untrue. It’s easy to criticise but it’s unfair to do it without having read the full report,” he said. “Only those who haven’t read the report could have reached the conclusion [the study was biased].”

Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng said last month there was overwhelming public support for building the HK$136.2 billion third runway. In a government commissioned study, 73 per cent of nearly 24,000 respondents backed the project. The authority says the third runway will bring HK$912 billion in economic benefits in the 50 years to 2061. It says the expansion is essential for coping with growth in the volume of air passengers and cargo, which are expected to double from current levels by 2030.

A spokesman for the Transport and Housing Bureau said the government was carefully considering the recommendation – the finding of support for a new runway – with a view to deciding on the next stage of work. A spokesman for the authority said it thought the report reflected views of the public and stakeholders.

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