December 18, 2009

Gala Dinner - President's speech

The full text of the President’s speech at the HKIP 30th Anniversary Gala Dinner on 29 October 2009 at the J.W. Marriott Hotel, Admiralty, Hong Kong.

The Honourable CY Leung, GBS, JP; the Hon. Professor Patrick Lau, Mrs. Ava Ng, Director of Planning; our Honorary members Professor Peter Hills, Professor Yeung Yue-man and Professor David Lung, Guests, Past Presidents, Fellow members, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Hong Kong Institute of Planners, first of all, let me extend our heartiest welcome and gratitude to our Guest of Honour -- the Hon CY LEUNG for gracing us with his presence and to address us tonight at this festive occasion of our 30th Anniversary.

It is a daunting task for me, and for the audience as well, to present and to endure respectively a monologue by me for some 20 minutes on what happened in the past 30 years. Any way, I have no choice. You don’t either. Take the challenge.

To begin from the beginning, HKIP was set up in 1979. In the same year, the MTR started its service and the MacLehose Trail was opened in October 1979.

Our founding President was the late Eric Jackson. We had then only 41 members.

It was only in Sept 1981, that we started to have our own planning courses locally - when the MSc (Urban Planning) course commenced in the University of Hong Kong.

The first 3 fellows were admitted in 1983. Now we have 26. And the Code of Professional Conduct came into operation this year.

These are the “collective memories” of senior members. Our current membership stands at 437 full members; 16 retired members; 7 Hon. Members; and 226 Students.

Some young member, especially those born in or after the 1970’s, may sometimes wonder what HKIP and their colleague planners have in fact done in the past. This was where and how we stood then in the Hong Kong context.

The 1980s –
A part from natural population growth, from 1978 to September 1980, we faced an immense problem of illegal immigrants, until the government abolished the "reached-base" policy in October 1980. The Population in Hong Kong in 1980 was about 5 Millions then. The rate of growth was an alarming 1 Million in ten years.

There was a great housing need. The new town development programme commenced in 1973.

Actually, the idea of satellite town or new towns was conceived a lot earlier.. The first plan for development in Sha Tin was approved much earlier - by the then Governor-in-Council in 1961. While development was under way in the 1970’s, Ma On Shan was added in August 1979, and together the population was up to 0.7 Million.

Looking at the old photos, one would notice the sea – the Shatin Cove in a mountainous backdrop, as contrasted with the high-rises, and even some so called “Ping-fung lau” – i.e. “walled buildings” of today.

By the way -- Hong Kong has for a long time been acclaimed for its creativeness in using reclamation as a means to create land for development. That’s also how we managed to remain a compact city.

Meanwhile, in 1982, District Boards (changed to become District Councils in 1999) were established under the District Administration Scheme – to improve coordination of government activities in the provision of services and facilities at the district level.

The Tuen Mun Light Rail started to be in operation in 1988.

It was indeed the heydays of the new town developments. We worked together in multi-disciplinary offices. I would say at that time, “what you plan is what you get”. We planned together, and built it expeditiously together with engineers, architects and landscape architects colleagues, and tackled the technical problems together in a team. (Not like today, what you get is not what you planned.)

I have worked in the Shatin Development Office of the then NTDD. I have also subsequently worked on the Tin Shui Wai new town. So did Bosco, Ava, and Ian Brownlee.

Tin Shui Wai was then largely fish ponds. Population intake eventually took place only in 1991. Would we be able to reclaim so much wetland these days ? -- I wonder.

However, as times changed, it has evolved from a planned self-contained new town with industrial sites, gradually to a mainly residential town.

We cannot talk about Hong Kong without mentioning the opening and market economy of China since 1978. Her Economic reform 改革開放; and Deng Xiaopeng’s vision of One Country Two Systems. The open policy, included the earmarking of four southern cities as Special Economic Zones (SEZs), including our immediate neighbour -- Shenzhen.

Arguably, Hong Kong’s traditional manufacturing industries have mostly shifted to more competitive areas in the Mainland and thus the Tin Shui Wai phenomenon just reflected such great changes.

In this decade of changes, HKIP has done the following –

HKIP helped to convince government in the recognition of the MSc course of HKU

The HKIP Journal – Planning and Development was first published in May 1985.

In Sept 1985, HKIP became one of the institutions in the then “Engineering, Architectural, Surveying and Planning Functional Constituency”. (Now the Engineers have their own Functional Constituency. See how things have changed with times.)

In 1988, the Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP, of which we were a member) held a Plenary Session and Workshop on “public private partnership in Planning and Development. A subject quite popularly discussed at that time, presumably trend under the influence of “Tatcherism” ?

What about the 1990s ?

In 1991, Planning Department produced the Metroplan. Metroplan proposed reclamations to provide land for lowering the intensity of development and for provision of infrastructure facilities and “solution space” for urban renewal. Had building height and urban design guidelines been incorporated into the OZPs before the Airport Height Restrictions were lifted,, perhaps we would have somewhat less arguments today ?

The Metroplan was anyhow subsequently reviewed in 1999 together with the related Kowloon Density Study.

Any way, everyone was busily engaged then in completing the 10 Airport Core Projects.

With 1997 came change of sovereignty and achievements -- including the Tsing Ma Bridge - the world's sixth largest suspension bridge, which was opening on 27 April 1997. We also recalled the introduction of the Octopus Card in that year, a Hong Kong people’s creation of digital wallet, which became imitated by many other operators nowadays.

In 1998 the Kai Tak Airport was closed and moved to the new US $20 Billion Hong Kong International Airport at Chek Lap Kok.

By the end of 1999, MTRC became quite well off by then, riding on development of the properties above its stations. We of course also rode on and still believe in a compact and rail-based development pattern – which is also stated in HK2030.

We also went through the era of policy of annual housing production target of 85,000 units. Colleagues including myself worked on the double – dealing with rezoning, up-zonings, and packed more units in various sites, including those of stations and depots, etc.

Property prices soared. Bubbles were formed and bubbles busted. Followed by massive emigration and brain drain towards the year 1997 and subsequent financial crisis after the Asian financial storm shortly after the change of sovereignty.

It was in this background we rode on –

We have held Seminars and conferences on the Comprehensive Review of the Town Planning Ordinance; assisted in setting up of the Planners Registration Board (established in 1992).

In April 1993, the first HKIP Awards was awarded. And in 1995 a new set of Code of Professional Conduct with mandatory requirement for renewal of membership was promulgated. In 1996, we introduced the Qualifying Examination system to potential applicants to HKIP with overseas planning degrees and Examination commenced in 1997.

We succeeded to rent our own office space in Hang Lung Centre in 1999. Henceforth, we were able to hold a lot more activities and fostered closer relationship with sister institutes through holding more joint events, seminars, etc.

A more important milestone that must be noted is of course the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance, which started as a bill, passed in 1997, was amended to apply to the entire area of the Victoria Harbour, was enacted in 1999.

Colleagues in Planning Department continued with several rounds of review of the SE Kowloon development plan – until end 2007 when an OZP was finally approved - a change from massive reclamation to zero reclamation. Times have changed. Perhaps, the process itself was even more notable than the result in this case. In these reviews, the public was extensively engaged – a process never done before in the history of the planning in Hong Kong.

Then came the current decade –

The MTRC became listed in 2000 and the part Privatisation of the Airport Authority came in 2003.

Since year 2000, the Joint Professional Centre at The Centre, was set up. In December, the CPD programme became mandatory. (Listening to this speech gives you 20 minutes for CPD.)

The Urban Design Alliance was established under the auspices of HKIP and HKIA in 2001. In the same year the Young Planners Group (YPG) was born.

The 5 days week in government has helped to boost the attendance of our civil servant members to Saturday seminars, thereby helping them a lot in their CPD programme.

We celebrated the 25th Anniversary in 2004. In February 2004, we signed a MOU in Guangzhou with the Urban Planning Society of China (UPSC), to foster better cooperation between planners in Hong Kong and the Mainland. We also signed agreements with and held the Forum for Planning and Development Control of Greater Pearl River Delta City Conglomeration” with the Guangdong City Planning Association (GCPA). The latest MOU signed is with the Macau Institute of Urban Planning this year,.

The Mentorship Scheme was also launched in 2004.

Mutual recognition examinations and training course were arranged in 2006, with 10 Hong Kong and 16 Mainland planners taking part in examination in 2007.

I will not read out all the recent activities but will just name a few major ones, which included :

In 2006, the Shenzhen Municipal Government commissioned the China Academy for Urban Planning and Design – Shenzhen (CAUPD-SZ) to undertake a focus study on the urban design and density zoning in connection with the preparation of the Master Plan for Shenzhen 2006- 2020. HKIP was invited to take part,

Year 2007 -- Joint International Conference was held with the UPSC in April 2007 on “When Creative industries Crossover with Cities”. Technical visit was held to Dalian and Dandong. In Dec 2007 – Feb 2008, the Hong Kong/Shenzhen Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism was jointly organised by HKIP, HKIA and the HK Designers Association at the old Central Police Station site. The theme was “:Re-farbicating the City”. We took part in an exhibition at the Shanghai International Creative Industry Week Exhibition in November 2007, with a theme “Better City, Better Life”, by showing the cultural facilities planning in Hong Kong, In 2008 – We have amended the Constitution and Byelaws – deleting the proxy system – giving members unencumbered freedom of choice in elections, and the introduction of voting by post. In 2008 after the May 12 Wenchuan earthquake – HKIP has actively participated in the aid, including providing planning advice in selection of rehabilitation projects of Dujianjen, commenting on the master planning of the Wolong greater panda conservation area, the planning of the reconstruction of various towns and villages, etc. Members also joined voluntary and charity groups as individuals.

In 2009, we signed the Vancouver Declaration to support of the objectives of the Global Planners Network.
This year, we have also been actively engaged in the WKCD public engagement forums and the public engagement of the Sustainable Development Council on Sustainable and Quality Building Environment. Seminars and questionnaire surveys. As a follow up on the earthquake and disaster prevention and recovery studies, joint technical visits with members of HKIA were held to Taiwan and Japan this summer.
This year, we have chosen a Green theme organised a an international conference on Planning for Low Carbon cities
As the slogan goes “Together we planned for 30 years, United we strive for a greener future” …)

What does it all mean ?

To our members –
In view of demands for ever increasing engagements in all front, I appeal to all our young members to help and participate more.

To the community –
We pledge to continue with our participation in the public engagement like the WKCD, the URS Review, the Sustainable Development Council’s public engagement on Quality and Sustainable Building Environment; and the conservation of Central, urban greening and tree management and other issues arising from this years Policy Address.

To the city region –
We seek to continue cooperation and sharing with counterpart institutions in the Greater Pearl River Delta Region such as in the regional conferences, studies /forums on fostering the development of a liveable Greater Pearl River Delta Bay Area”.

To the globe -
Vis-a-vis climate change – we would promote the education, practice of green and sustainable living, through reaching out to public forums, arrangement of community events, and cooperation with relevant organisations with similar beliefs.

Sine the Wen Chuen Earthquake last year, we have participated extensively in commenting on the master planning for the restoration of the Wolong Panda conservation region. Through the shock and experiences, plus the technical visits to Japan and Taiwan, we have learnt to become more humble towards the forces of nature and more caring towards nature conservation

In this memorable year of the 30th Anniversary, we not only reviewed what we have done in the past when economic growth was the order of the day, but also why and whether these activities are conducive to a liveable environment for all. Although this is the climax of all the associated events it is by no means the end, but rather a milestone in a stream of such activities. And I am sure there are more yet to come.

Whilst we have done some remarkable researches, such as those from the earthquake and disaster rehabilitation projects, I strongly suggest to our Council that we should not let these useful information simply dissipate away. They should be kept and published in various ways for sharing with members and friends of other institutions We hope they would return us the same, and more.

Albeit the enormous amount of work we have done in the past three decades, it took me some time to go through files and web-sites to gather together a more comprehensive picture. Along this line, I therefore pose a challenge to all, for the next 10 years to come. As a birthday boy, I am entitled to make a wish today. I wish that by the time of the 40th anniversary, we will have set up an Academy of urban planning and environment in Hong Kong, together with a resource centre, to be founded on the basis of the Hong Kong Institute of Planners and tapping on the vast experiences of our learned senior members.

As Sir Issac Newton says, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” I saw the above because of the effort of my predecessors, thank you dear past presidents, and if I may, I would rather be the pedestal or part of it, on which our young members may stand and look even further someday. This is my wish..

Thank you.

Last but not least --
Many thanks to the Chairperson of the Organising Committee and everyone who have dedicated their time in making this Gala Dinner successful.

And also many thanks to the generosity and support from all the sponsors to our 30th anniversary green theme series of events including tonight’s event

Introduction to the Guest of Honour

Mr C.Y. Leung is Chairman, Asia Pacific, of DTZ, a world renowned property services company. He is a past Chairman of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and past President of the Institute of Surveyors in Hong Kong. He is also a trustee, Executive Committee member & Chairman of Asia of the Urban Land Institute.

In 1997, he was awarded the degree of Hon. Doctor of Business Administration by the University of the West of England. In 1998, he was awarded a similar degree by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He is Chairman of the Council of the City University of Hong Kong and Pro Chancellor of University of West of England.

Mr Leung actively contributed to the development of a framework for land-use policies and real estate development in the mainland of China since 1978. In 1980, he was officially appointed as an adviser to the land and housing reform committees of the governments in Shanghai, Tianjin and Shenzhen. In 1988, shortly after the amendment of the Chinese Constitution, he assisted the Shanghai Government in selling the first land use right since 1949.

Mr Leung was extensively involved in the establishment of Hong Kong as a Special Administrative Region, and he was the Secretary General of the then Basic Law Consultative Committee, Leader of the Political Sub-Group of the Preliminary Working Committee, Vice Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for HKSAR and Member of the Provisional Legislative Council.

Since 1997, Mr Leung has been a member of the Executive Council of Hong Kong and is currently the Convenor of the non-official members. In 2003, he was elected a member of the National Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. He is a founder and the Chairman of the Hong Kong Coalition of Professional Services and Chairman of the One Country Two Systems Research Institute.

We feel most fortunate to have Mr. Leung with us tonight. Besides knowing Mr. Leung through our contacts on professional matters such as through the Coalition of Professional Services under his leadership, some of us may, like me, have read a book written by Mr. Leung, called 家是香港 (Home is Hong Kong) published in June 2007. It would be presumptuous for me to try to summarise all the ideas in the book. I would simply refer to his chapter 8, which is titled 貼近綠色生活: 改善環境, 人人有責, which means literally “It’s everybody’s responsibility to improve the environment in order to achieve the goal of “green living”. Environment and sustainable development are indeed the planners’ great concern. Green living happens to accord with the theme that HKIP has picked for this year’s celebration activities, the most noticeable one being the International Conference on “Planning for Low Carbon Cities”. We should therefore have a lot of common issues to share. Please therefore join me in welcoming Mr. Leung.