Plans for the new Sustainable Lantau Office (SLO) dispel any doubts about the role of conservation in Lantau development schemes.
It has no role at all.
The SLO, supposedly a multidisciplinary agency that will ‘balance’ development and conservation, will in fact be a unit within the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) dominated by engineers and planners.
The top three layers of management will all be engineers, planners or construction professionals. Of the top 16 posts, only one – four ranks down – will be a conservation specialist.
The Development Bureau set out the SLO’s priorities and staffing needs in a submission last month to the Legco establishment subcommittee, which deals with civil service appointments.
It sought permission to create four new senior positions at the top – three engineers and a planner – and to bring in 22 Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) staff (the subcommittee endorsed the proposal except for one of the CEDD staff posts).
The paper repeats the environmental messages of earlier studies, including the main report, the Sustainable Lantau Blueprint:
..the planning vision is to balance and enhance development and conservation with a view to developing Lantau into a smart, low-carbon community for living, work, business, leisure and study.
When it gets into the specifics of its priorities, it lists out a more than a dozen development projects (see below), including the Tung Chung expansion, the artificial island for the HK-Macau bridge border crossing and the controversial HK$248 million feasibility study into the East Lantau Metropolis.
By contrast, it doesn’t have a single conservation project on its agenda. Instead, refers to initiatives “that are being explored.”
The SLO was originally called the Lantau Development Office, but changed its name following criticism from Legco members that it gave too little weight to the environment.
In reality it is a unit dedicated to outlying islands development with a token nod to conservation. The original title was at least accurate.
The SLO’s priorities, as set out by the Development Bureau:
Photo (top): Kau Yi Chau island, core of the ELM