Green candidate: Clara Tam

This is the second Q&A with a Lantau District Council candidate.

Clara Tam (candidate no. 4) stands out in the race as the only conservation candidate.  In Lantau terms that means she is the only one opposed to the government’s development programme – including Shek Kwu Chau incinerator, the round-island highway and the East Lantau Metropolis. She advocates a green approach emphasising eco-tourism, community participation and greater transparency.

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Please introduce yourself: name, age, occupation and education experience, experience in the community, political affiliation, connection to Lantau.

I’m Clara Tam Sau Ngor, 46 years old female and third-generation born and raised in Mui Wo, Lantau. The Tams have made Mui Wo our home for 60 years since my grandpa and dad started Yau Lee Transportation Company, a kaito (cargo boat) family business on the island. Most of the people in Mui Wo know our family. Like most of the kids here, I went to Lik Hang kindergarten and Mui Wo School.

My love for Lantau inspired me to dedicate myself to working for the people here. I have worked on Lantau as a school secretary and community co-ordinator in recently, having received formal training in theology. Like those who love and care for Lantau and the whole Hong Kong, I took part in different social actions such as opposing the building of Shek Kwu Chau incinerator. I joined the group led by Dr. Man Si Wai and took part in the anti-nuclear movement, as well as territory-wide social campaigns such as Anti-High Speed Rail Movement and the Umbrella Movement.

Why are you standing for the Islands District Council?
I was very concerned when the government recently announced proposals from the Lantau Development Advisory Committee. Honestly, I was, like many other Lantau residents, horrified when I learnt of the proposals to build a four-lane Ring Road and a massive man-made island for the East Lantau Metropolis. This will bring about irreversible devastation to our ecological environment! Hardly had I come out of shock when some members of the Committee suggested in September filling in Shek Pik Reservoir to make way for more houses!! All these proposals are born of narrow minds that only know one antiquated definition of development.

And is this really what WE want? As a member of the Lantau community, I of course am for a better future for our home. But there are many possibilities of development that respect and balance the people and nature’s needs as well. A lot of the Committee members have vested interest in property developments on Lantau, giving empty promises of sustainability and conservation. There is not a single member who represents our community or environmental concern in the entire Committee, which also does not answer to Legco. Without proper monitoring by the public, this Committee will only become a bulldozer to make way for greedy, short-sighted plans of profiteering property developers.

This is precisely why I am standing as a candidate. I hope that my candidacy will give you an alternative for the Lantau community. I also hope to raise interest among residents in community governance, knowing that each individual vote counts and can make a difference.

It is my wish to serve my neighbours and conserve Lantau, a place we all call our home.

What are the main issues for South Lantau?

  • The false dilemma between development and conservation
  • “Envisioning” a metropolitan Lantau to provide extra land and serve tens of thousands of new residents and tourists based on an antiquated model of development and city-planning
  • Dysfunctional and untransparent community governance

If elected, what will be your priorities?

  • Re-imagining the possibilities of conservation and development
  • Re-positioning Lantau as Hong Kong’s unique natural green reserve with rich a cultural heritage, making it a destination for eco-tourism and a genuinely sustainable homestead
  • Transparent, participatory and inclusive community governance

I believe in community participatory governance and that all residents here should be encouraged and enabled to participate more actively in shaping our home together. I am proposing to have regular public meetings in which there will be reportage of DC updates, plus Q&A sessions for the residents so that residents will be kept fully-informed about issues related to them. Also this is the best opportunity for DC members to collect views and suggestions from the residents. Also such sessions should be bi-lingual. I am also proposing for DC minutes to revert to being bilingual as well (it used to be bilingual before the handover).

What is your view of the plan to open up S. Lantau roads to extra tourist buses and private cars with daily permits?

Let’s look at this issue on a higher level. What is the real issue at hand – patching up infrastructure for ever-increasing vehicular access, or should we really be looking at what Lantau should become, and from that vision decide what kind of infrastructure is actually needed?

The Transport Department certainly does have information on the maximum capacity of Lantau’s existing road infrastructure and parking facilities. I propose to use this figure as the upper limit and from thereon restrict new permits to electric cars/buses only. Old permits can only be renewed if the applicant also switch to zero/low pollution standards. This will eventually shift Lantau to become the first Hong Kong green zone where only electric or zero/low pollution vehicles are allowed. And of course we can have this plan be implemented over a certain period. Imagine a Lantau where only bicycles and electric cars can access. This will stop further devastation of our environment and restore the ecological balance. Lantau will be the first and best example of Hong Kong of an alternative to “economic growth” based on property and infrastructure development at the expense of our environment, natural resources and heritage.

How can we improve public transport, ie, taxi, bus and ferry services?

On taxis: I believe there should definitely be much more taxi licences issued. But fair competition should be introduced, in the form of Uber-like competition. Because we’re not talking about territory-wide changes, Lantau is certainly a good experiment ground for introducing quality options such as Uber or the like.

On buses: I believe that the New Lantau Bus Company should have a permanent reserve pool of drivers/buses to meet holiday and special event needs.

On ferries: I believe that the service and frequencies of inter-island ferries should be improved. I believe that the management of the ferry company can definitely be much, much better, in terms of deployment of human resources, efficiency and cleanliness. Our daily ride to and from town can be a much more pleasant journey if only the ferries can be kept clean and well-ventilated.

I believe that the holiday surcharge of ferry/bus services is totally unfair and should be abolished. It discourages the flow of visitors and residents and practically works against what everybody is trying to do – ie encourage people to come visit and experience the beauty of Lantau, and for local families in Lantau to be able to get together especially during the holidays.

How to improve S. Lantau roads? Do we need a round-island highway?

My response to this question is basically in line with Question 5 above. Yet there is always room for improvement on S. Lantau roads. I have talked to some drivers; there are certain turning points where the road can be widened to make road journey safer. Also in areas where cattle are around, like the outside of Pui O Public School, speed bumps can be built in order to ensure safety for them as well as students.

How to balance development, in particular tourism, and the South Lantau environment and lifestyle?

Eco/heritage tourism can boost the local economy and advocate conservation of the environment at the same time. We have so many precious natural resources to attract visitors. I have some suggestions:

We could employ Lantau youth as Youth Ambassadors who would give tourists a warm reception and advice on touring Lantau. Electric tour buses should be used to avoid air and sound pollution.

We could hold a Fun Cultural week including the Silvermine Beach Music Festival, outdoor cinema (I remember this was done some years ago, with a big screen set up on the beach and people watching the movie together for free), eco/heritage tours, hiking trips. Also, we should remove the surcharge for buses and ferries in this week.

What other things can we do to improve South Lantau as a place to live and raise families?

More conservation education can be done around Lantau in our daily life. Waste separation, food waste collection and that can be transferred into fertilizer. Let’s promote a green and healthy lifestyle.

What is your view of the plan for the East Lantau Metropolis?

My personal view: NO to ELM!! The proposal itself, including the compromised proposals (like leaving a ring of water around the island to “conserve natural life”) is totally ridiculous and completely ignorant.

5 comments

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