HBF NEWSLETTER | No. 17 | July 2011

Reconnecting the City to the Water, the Water to
the People

Last month, Harbour Business Forum (HBF) released a new study on Hong Kong's harbour that for the first time considers both land and water-based issues in and around the harbour on an integrated basis.  The study 'Victoria Harbour as a Harbour: The Importance of Integrated Land-Water Planning’ (Land-Water Planning Report), has been developed from a newly created database, which is being made publicly available to support policy formulation and decision making about the future of one of Hong Kong's greatest assets.

The database - www.victoriaharbour.hk - captures information about the harbour's marine and land assets, their uses and interfaces. From this data an interactive harbour map has been generated, showing the location of these facilities in and around the harbour (some examples are shown in Figures 1 and 2). The database will be updated periodically.

Figure 1: HBF's Interactive Harbour Map shows the predominant water uses of the Victoria Harbour.
Figure 2: HBF's Interactive Harbour Map shows the predominant future land-uses around Victoria Harbour.


Trends and Future Prospects of Victoria Harbour

The study shows that marine activity in Hong Kong's harbour is evolving dynamically and that water-based activity interacts with and often dictates the nature of adjoining harbourfront development. The critical nature of this interaction reinforces the need for overarching planning and management of the harbour as advocated by the HBF's earlier report Integrated Harbour Vision and Delivery Plan – The Business case.

The study shows that while the balance and mix of water-based commercial activities are changing, they are set to remain a critical component of Hong Kong's trade and economy for the foreseeable future. Factors in these changes include the continuing decline of the fishing fleet, the future completion of the new cruise terminal at Kai Tak, increased cross-boundary traffic but declining intra-Hong Kong ferry traffic.

The study also identified strong demand for leisure activity but an apparent shortage of the necessary moorings and storage opportunities for public use.

Most of these commercial and leisure developments require reconsideration and upgrading of landside access to the harbour (Figure 3). In particular, the study noted that those activities that are water-dependent must be on the harbourfront and need to be supported by harbourfront facilities and sheltered water access. Prioritisation of sheltered water for these uses may require policy changes, including reconsideration of the current cautious interpretation of the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance.

Additional man-made facilities and direct access are required to facilitate more people-oriented activities on the water that will help to reconnect the harbour back into the heart of the city and its people. The future value of Victoria Harbour is very much depends on the degree to which the harbour supports people living, working and playing in and around the harbour.

Figure 3: There is a need for land-water interface facility improvements.

What Hong Kong Needs - Water Taxi and Water Bus

To demonstrate the importance of adopting an integrated approach to land-water planning, six indicative harbour enhancement programmes are identified and elaborated in the HBF’s latest Land-Water Planning Report. As a complement to the existing ferry service, one indicative harbour enhancement programme proposes the provision of water transport in the form of water taxis and water buses (described below) which may provide a way to deal with this problem especially when the existing cross-harbour ferry services are not energy efficient and flexible in route and timing.

A water taxi is a commuter boat to provide service on demand to different locations while a water bus operates on a schedule with multiple stops. They may be the best or quickest way to get around in traffic choked cities like in Hong Kong especially as most of the busiest commercial areas in Hong Kong such as Central, Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui are situated by a body of water where these types of services will be in demand as they can offer a real alternative for commuters who wish to avoid the busy roads and trains.

In addition, a smaller and more efficient watercraft will be able to provide more convenient access to a wider range of destinations for locals and visitors. It will also reduce energy consumption and pollution compared with a larger ferry as well as reduce end-to-end journey distances. A proper water transport system is not just the provision of easy connections across and along the harbour, but also offers opportunities to re-use assets to facilitate small- and medium-scale commercial activity, private sector investment and jobs.

The development of water taxi and bus services is a growth opportunity as the major infrastructure already exists so it is not expensive to introduce. Nevertheless, it still requires the provision or enhancement of safe landing places including lighting and shelter at important destinations, for example, West Kowloon Cultural District, Kai Tak cruise terminal, Lei Yue Mun and Kwun Tong; accreditation of alternative watercraft; branding and signage; ticket sales facilities and information services.

Today in some cities like Sydney, London and New York, the water taxi and bus services are a great and comfortable alternative mean of land based transportation.  The transport network in Sydney is popular with locals and tourists. They even provide free wireless internet access in water bus services between Sydney Harbour and its suburbs. London has the Britain’s most extensive water bus services which serve commuters travelling up and down the River Thames. In Washington, commuters consider the 30-minute water taxi ride as a pleasant, relaxing alternative to travel along and across the Washington Harbour.

The water taxi and bus services are possible in other countries, but why not in Hong Kong? If Hong Kong starts to explore the possibilities of the introduction of these services now, there may be a chance that a decade from now, water taxi and water bus could be seen along with bus and MTR as major public transportation in here (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Photomontage of Kwun Tong Ferry Pier with water taxi service.

Launch Luncheon

Speaking on the luncheon to launch the study, Mr. Rhydian Cox, the Executive Committee Chairman of the HBF (Figure 5), highlighted the importance of the study said, “Our starting point behinds this study is simple: Victoria Harbour is first and foremost a harbour and only when land and water issues are considered collectively is the whole greater than simply the sum of parts.”  Mr. Cox further affirmed. “Victoria Harbour is so important to Hong Kong that a plan for the harbour’s future is a plan for the city’s future.”

With the database and the report which are now freely available for public use on the HBF’s new subsite: www.victoriaharbour.hk, HBF hopes to continue to shape the debate about the future of our most precious asset – Victoria Harbour.

Figure 5: The HBF's Executive Committee Chairman Mr. Rhydian Cox spoke at the luncheon.


Harbourfront Commission – At a Glance

The section below highlights key issues discussed at the recent meetings of the Harbourfront Commission and its three Task Forces.

Amendments to the Draft Kennedy Town and Mount Davis Outline Zoning Plan The Planning Department presented the amendments incorporated into the draft Kennedy Town and Mount Davis Outline Zoning Plan (OZP). The amendments proposed include imposition of building height restrictions on various development zones, rezoning of a number of sites to reflect the planning intention or existing developments, and designation of building gaps to facilitate air ventilation.

For more details, please review the Discussion Paper and the PlanD PowerPoint Presentation.

Amendments to the Approved South West Kowloon Outline Zoning Plan No. S/K20/24The Planning Department proposed to amend the Approved South West Kowloon Outline Zoning Plan by rezoning the following sites from “Government, Institution or Community” to “Open Space”.

  • A strip of land along Hoi Fai Road fronting the New Yau Ma Tei Typhoon Shelter.
  • A site bounded by Hoi Ting Road, Hoi Wang Road and Lai Cheung Road.

For more details, please refer to the Discussion Paper the PlanD PowerPoint Presentation and the Changing use of the waterfront of Victoria Harbour Presentation.

To help us develop the newsletter further in the future, please send your feedback to: hbf@bec.org.hk


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