2010 Welcome Wall Update

Oct 14: Where Are the Posters?

Jo Wilson – Secretary, Living Lamma:

There has been much debate on the Welcome Wall. I’d like to give you a bit of background information and also let you know about the launch of a design competition to enhance the appearance of the wall.

The Welcome Wall was included in the booklet produced for the Stop the Mess! campaign, which contained 253 photographs of rubbish black spots, rusty railings, and other areas that had fallen into disrepair or become eyesores on Lamma. This booklet was prepared by Living Lamma and presented to different government departments in a series of meeting this year. Though the wall serves a valuable service, being a communications board for the community, it had fallen into disrepair and was in need of renovation.

It took several months to ascertain who should be responsible for the upkeep of the wall. The Home Affairs Department (HAD) has now taken charge. In fact, HAD is co-ordinating other government departments and is actively working its way through the the other photos in Living Lamma’s booklet. The recent replacement or repainting of rusty railings and removal of rubbish on Tai Peng Hill are part of these efforts. I’m even told that the Water Services Department will soon be repainting their building in Yung Shue Long. Things are happening and we are really pleased so far with the response. It has taken a monumental effort, but we are now moving in the right direction.

Why is it so difficult to clean up things on Lamma?

Like other places in the New Territories, the question of land ownership often gets in the way. For instance, in Tai Peng New Village, the government wants to put a hand railing on the stairs and the side of the path where there is a rather nasty drop. Unfortunately, about 5 metres of this path falls on private land and so government needs the permission of the licensee before they extend the fence along the most dangerous part of the path. Though government has written to the licensee, they have not received a response and therefore can only partially fence the path. The owner may be unaware of the situation, but the government officers are not empowered to take further action.

In the same area, there is now a huge stockpile of green waste, which is too big to compost effectively and which has also been used as a dumping ground for other rubbish over time. Though government contractors have been responsible for depositing some of the green waste on private land, most likely unwittingly, (there is nothing anywhere to indicate the boundaries and the area concerned extends back from the bin area), the government cannot clean it up because it is private land. For the private land owner, there will be costs involved in clearing this pile of which he probably has no knowledge.

Living Lamma is trying to work with government and the local community to

solve these problems. The response from the Rural Committee has been fantastic and we are now working with Chairman Chan to identify the right people to talk to and see what can be done. In the case of Tai Peng New Village, we will be speaking to the village heads and trying to take further steps to contact the licensee. We will also offer assistance to help private land owners who have waste on their land that they want to clear.

And now back to the issue of the wall. First there was the question of ownership to overcome, which after months of no-one seeming to know the answer, HAD resolved by taking charge of the renovation. Then the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) had to come and clean it, which was when the notices were first removed and the wall was power sprayed.

Contractors for HAD then repaired and painted it.

Living Lamma did not have any say over the colour. In fact, when the scaffolding first appeared, I was straight on the phone to HAD, thinking “Dear God, don’t let them paint it pink!” I was told that the paint had already been ordered and that it was “monochrome.” A couple of phone calls later and we had ascertained that indeed, monochrome meant grey, the colour of concrete.

But don’t worry. The grey wall is a TEMPORARY measure. We have a document from HAD stating that:

“A further beautification works will be done and we shall invite the locals/Living Lamma to provide a draft painting design. Beautification works will commence right away upon the confirmation of the design.”

In the meantime, I have been told repeatedly that residents are welcome to continue to post notices on the Welcome Wall (and don’t worry if a bit of paint comes off, it’s temporary after all!)

So the next step is to invite all artists, architects, designers and landscapers (of any age) to take part in the design competition. Living Lamma is working with the Rural Committee to organise this and posters outlining the competition details within the next week or so.

We are also looking for a small committee of volunteers to help encourage people to participate and with general co-ordination. If anyone would like to help, please contact Jo Wilson at 2982 0920.

Details of the competition will, of course, be posted on the Welcome Wall and on Lamma.com.hk.

Read more about the Democracy, err, Welcome, err, Democracy Wall as the status seems to be changing almost daily right now: The ‘Democracy Wall’ – a discussion.