Park's last-ditch bid before survival vote

Top News | Sophie Hui 22 May 2020

Ocean Park will no longer be a traditional theme park after its repositioning, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah said, ahead of today's survival vote at the Legislative Council.

Lawmakers will vote on the park's HK$5.4 billion funding request in the Finance Committee. If the funding is denied, it will run out of cash on June 30.

Yau said yesterday the government will submit supplementary information and amendments to Legco in hopes of gaining support from lawmakers as well as saving 7,500 animals and the jobs of 2,000 staff at the park.

Yau said the HK$13.2 million additional funding on setting up a committee to review the park's future is also not needed now.

He raised three overall directions for the attraction's repositioning and said the park will focus on education and conservation, which it has done in the past four decades.

Education and conservation are the park's "biggest capital," Yau said, and these will have to be consolidated in the future.

"It is almost unanimously agreed that the strength and core competency of the park is conservation and education," he added.

"Therefore, we should redouble our efforts and emphasize that this is the thing that can take the park into the future in a more sustainable manner."

Yau said the park has to break away from the traditional theme park development model by scaling back rides.

"Given the very heavy investments and high maintenance cost, and in the light of the reduced visitors, [the rides] will be scaled down and give way to some of the more attractive development potential the park is good at," Yau said.

He said the two hotels at the Wong Chuk Hang site and the new Water World feature can help the park transform into a place for leisure and holidays.. The park can also cooperate with other attractions in Southern District, such as Sham Wan and Jumbo Kingdom in Aberdeen.

To adjust its development model, the park's financial arrangements and funding sources will be reexamined. The park's business model also needs to change, including charging activities separately and cooperating with external parties by outsourcing, Yau said.

Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan, vice chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said his party will discuss again whether or not to support the funding request.

He said the government's new plan is "good," but it will require an amendment to the law, which will be difficult this legislative term.

He also requested the government to further explain how much can be saved under the new repositioning.

Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said his party would still not support the funding application, since the "government has insisted on developing the park into a tourist attraction instead of a park for Hong Kong people." Wu said he is also worried the park will run into debt again in the future.

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