Following is the translation of the speech by the Secretary for the Environment and Food, Mrs Lily Yam, in moving the second reading of the Noise Control (Amendment) Bill 2001 in the Legislative Council meeting today (June 27):
I move the second reading of the Noise Control (Amendment) Bill 2001.
Noise problems are an increasing concern in the community. Despite vigorous enforcement action, the doubling of the maximum fine levels under the Noise Control Ordinance (NCO), and efforts to promote good practices through seminars and regular meetings, there are still many noise complaints and cases.
Violations of the NCO by bodies corporate are considerably more serious than that of individual proprietors. More than 90 per cent of noise offence convictions last year related to construction and commercial/industrial activities involving bodies corporate. Over the past three years, 39 bodies corporate were convicted five times or more. They include one body corporate which has been convicted 27 times and another two 24 times each.
The Bill seeks to add new provisions to the NCO to state explicitly that when a noise offence is committed by a body corporate, the management of the body corporate commits a like offence. The proposed amendments do not seek to increase the existing maximum fine levels or impose heavier penalties on either the body corporate or the management of that body corporate. The objective is to ensure that the management discharge their duty to take all practical measures to prevent noise offences.
Under the Bill, directors who are holding non-executive posts and are not concerned in the management of the body corporate will not be held responsible.
The proposed amendments also provide for a due diligence defence if they can demonstrate that a proper system has been established and was in effective operation to prevent noise offences. However, this will not apply to offences related to the carrying out of noisy construction activities during restricted hours without a construction noise permit. The construction noise permit system has been in operation for more than 10 years and the management of bodies corporate should comply with this basic requirement.
To enable the management of bodies corporate to put in place a proper system for the prevention of noise offences, the Noise Control Authority i.e. the Director of Environmental Protection (DEP), will issue a Code of Practice to provide practical guidance. The proposed amendments will be brought into operation on a date to be appointed by notice in the Gazette. We have largely reached a consensus with the trade and professional groups concerned over the Code of Practice. We will continue to consult them over this issue. We will allow a reasonable period for the trade to be familiarised with the Code of Practice before bringing the amendments into effect.
We understand the trade's concern that the management might be prosecuted for violations of the NCO at the sites for which they have no reasonable knowledge of. We have proposed in the Bill that DEP should give a written warning to the directors and top management concerned of a body corporate when the body corporate has committed a noise offence at a particular site. If the body corporate commits any further offence under the NCO at the same site after the warning, DEP would prosecute the directors and top management concerned without further warning.
As Owners' Corporations registered under the Building Management Ordinance are voluntary organizations, they are not regarded as bodies corporate in the Bill.
The amended NCO will help reduce noise nuisance caused by various trades and provide a quieter living environment for the community. I urge Members to support the Bill.
Thank you, Madam President.
End/Wednesday, June 27, 2001