Zoning of compensation areas
14. A Member enquired about the zoning of the compensation areas managed by KCRC. Mr. Lawrence Ngo replied that according to the approved EIA report, those areas were within wetland conservation areas but he had to confirm that after the meeting.
(Post meeting notes: This information is reflected in Fig 4.2 , Volume 5 of 5 of the approved EIA report)
Starting date of station construction work
15. In reply to a Member's enquiry, Mr. McNally said that the contract for the Lok Ma Chau Terminus construction work had just been awarded. The contractor would take a couple of months for mobilization. It was expected that major construction works would start in January next year.
Notification of the start of construction work to neighbouring fish farmers 16. A Member suggested that the project proponent should notify neighbouring fish farmers about the start of construction work and maintain liaison with them. Mr. McNally said that they would inform the fish farmers of the start of construction work and would monitor changes in use of the neighbouring fishponds. However, it was not necessary at the moment to liaise with the farmers as the enhancement work would not have a significant effect on them. Dr. Leven supplemented that if there were problems, they would discuss with the farmers on a day-to-day basis.
Transparency of the project
17. A Member enquired about the progress of setting up a web site for presenting the data of the project for public information. Mr. McNally said that they had created a web site for uploading the EM&A data of the project and data obtained from the HCMP and other relevant reports.
18. The Chairman thanked the project proponent for presenting the HCMP and E&MA manual to the Subcommittee and clarifying Members' queries regarding the reports.
Agenda Item 4: Meeting with Stakeholders of Major Designated Projects
19. The Chairman said that at the Council meeting held on 29 July 2002, a Member raised the point of meeting with stakeholders who had concerns about a particular designated project. It was agreed that the Subcommittee would consider the matter at a later meeting. In response to the Chairman's invitation, the Member raised several matters for discussion, namely informal dialogue with project proponents, meeting with stakeholder of designated projects, to invite experts to attend Subcommittee meetings and conflict of interest.
Informal dialogue with project proponents
20. The above Member pointed out that with the mechanism of informal dialogue, project proponent might think that if one formal meeting would not be enough they could always wait for an informal one. Also, some project proponents provided information at a very late stage. Both factors made it very difficult for Members to determine when to make a decision, as additional information might contain crucial points that would affect their deliberation. She therefore hoped that the Subcommittee would draw a line on when to have an informal dialogue with project proponent.
21. The Chairman said that informal dialogue with project proponents arose from the verdict of the EIA Appeal Board after hearing the appeal on the Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line. The Appeal Board considered that early dialogue with the project proponent could facilitate the EIA process. As for the EIA Subcommittee, there were two guiding principles to decide whether to accept project proponent's request for an informal dialogue : the meeting should be held in the early planning stage and the proponent sought to exchange views with the Subcommittee on specific issues of concern. Normally requests would not be entertained if the project proponent had already finalized the EIA report. Two Members agreed that an informal dialogue with project proponent before the formal meeting would resolve issues and save a lot of time during the actual process.
22. In response to a Member's enquiry, the Secretary said that informal dialogue would not be regarded as formal meeting and Members' attendance would not be counted.
Meeting with experts
23. A Member said that the Subcommittee was sometimes presented with technical data that were difficult to comprehend and Members had to make decisions without fully understanding the data presented. She considered it unfair that while project proponents could bring a team of experts to the meeting to convince Members of their proposals, the Subcommittee could not invite experts to the meeting to give Members more information on EIA reports. She referred to a case in which her request to invite an expert to the Subcommittee meeting was not accepted and said that the Subcommittee should be more open-minded.
24. The Chairman clarified that he would consider two criteria before making a decision whether to invite an expert to the meeting, i.e. whether the person had the expertise in the subject concerned and whether he was neutral on the issue in question. He would accept the request if the two basic criteria were met. In that occasion, he did suggest making separate arrangements for Members to meet the expert informally, not in the name of the Subcommittee. He and some Members subsequently did meet with the expert.
25. A Member commented that Members should trust the integrity of the person concerned and should listen to his views so as to get a more complete picture of the matter. Whether Members would accept his opinions was totally up to Members. The Subcommittee should not refuse to listen to him simply because he had taken side on an issue. Another Member pointed out that there was existing mechanism to invite experts to Subcommittee meetings. In the past, the Subcommittee had invited experts to Subcommittee meetings on two occasions because there was a lack of knowledge on the subject discussed. Each case should be considered individually. Also, the experts should not come to the meeting to make a presentation; they should only make themselves available for answering enquiries. A third Member cautioned that the Subcommittee must be very careful in choosing experts as different experts had different views. If an expert was warranted, Members should have information on whether the expert was the right person and whether he had adequate competence.
26. Members then discussed whether it was necessary for the Subcommittee Chairman to consult Members before he decided on a request to invite expert to the Subcommittee meeting. A Member said that instead of consulting Members each time he received a request, the Chairman could decide on the basis of certain criteria. Two Members agreed that the Chairman should be entrusted with decision on such matter. Another Member said that the objective of inviting experts to sit in was to provide more information so that the Subcommittee could make a better decision. It was sometimes difficult to classify whether a person was a stakeholder or a professional. If the majority of the Subcommittee considered that an expert's presence would be useful, then he should be invited. However, if there was not sufficient time to consult Members, the Chairman should make his own discretion.
27. A Member said the role of the Subcommittee was advisory and the way the Subcommittee made a decision was totally up to Members. She would welcome the opportunity if experts were available to give Members information rather than opinions when deliberating a particular case. Members should have a fair idea on what paper would be discussed and therefore could raise request for inviting experts well before the actual meeting to allow sufficient time for the Chairman to consult Members.
28. After further discussion, the Subcommittee agreed that if time allowed, the Chairman should consult Members before he made a decision whether to invite an expert to the EIA Subcommittee meeting but the final decision after listening to Members' views should rest with him. Also, an expert attending the Subcommittee meeting should make himself available for enquiries rather than making a presentation on personal views.
29. Putting aside the forum of Subcommittee meeting, Members agreed that separate arrangements to be made by green groups or individual Members on meetings with experts should be welcomed.
Meeting with stakeholders
30. A Member suggested that the Subcommittee should have meetings with stakeholders of designated projects and listen to their views before making a decision on EIA reports. Another Member expressed reservation on having meetings with stakeholders because the Subcommittee did not have a role to consult the public and the effort required for that kind of consultation would be tremendous. The Chairman said that the terms of reference of the Subcommittee was to provide input based on Members' understanding and knowledge of the EIA reports submitted. Furthermore, there were other channels under the EIA Ordinance for stakeholders and the public to forward comments to the Director of Environmental Protection (DEP). A third Member concurred with the view that the Subcommittee was not a suitable venue to hear the concerns and grievances of stakeholders. Another Member believed that there might not be much value in formally hearing the views of stakeholders, as their interests might not necessarily be within the purview of the Subcommittee, which was primarily environmental. A Member pointed out that stakeholders would have objectives and vested interests and it would be very difficult to entertain all of them, nor was it the job of the Subcommittee to do so. Stakeholders could voice their views to DEP within the statutory 30-day public consultation period.
Declaration of interest
31. A Member noticed that in the past some Members declared an interest in an issue before discussion but kept on giving their views during the meeting. In some other Government advisory bodies, Members who had declared interest would need to stay away from the meeting. She hoped that the Subcommittee would clarify the procedure.
32. Another Member pointed out that the Subcommittee had detailed rules on declaration of interest which were distributed to Members when they were appointed to the Council. A Member said that Members should exercise conscience in case of conflict of interest. He believed the existing guidelines were adequate. Another Member considered that the issue of declaration of interest was related to the whole Council and should be more appropriately discussed at full Council meeting. The Chairman clarified that according to ACE-EIA Paper 1/2002 on the Modus Operandi of the EIA Subcommittee, Members should declare direct or indirect interest before deliberating on agenda items so that the Chairman could decide whether they could take part in the discussion or voting. On the other hand, Members could also raise objection to the Chairman, if necessary
33. Having regard to the above discussions, the Chairman concluded that-
the Subcommittee should continue its practice on informal dialogue with project proponents;
Members could raise a request with the Chairman if they considered that certain experts should be invited to the Subcommittee meeting to provide information on EIA reports. The Chairman should consult Members before making a decision, if time permitted, but the final decision after listening to Members' views would rest with him; and
it was not necessary for the Subcommittee to meet stakeholders of designated projects during the EIA process.
Agenda Item 5: Any Other Business
Tentative items for discussion at the 76th meeting
34. Members noted that the EIA reports on the Reclamation of Sai Wan Typhoon Shelter and Associated Engineering Works at Cheung Chau and Feasibility Study for Housing Development at Whitehead & Lee On in Ma On Shan, Shatin were tentatively scheduled for discussion at the next meeting