Decision on land allocation at Haifa Port expected today
Directors-general aim for a balance between area’s green spaces and economic expansion needs.
By EHUD ZION WALDOKS
The special directors-general committee set up to allocate the land around the Haifa Port is expected to come to a decision on Thursday. At issue is the future development of the port under National Master Plan 30.The debate about land allocation has pitted the Israel Ports Development and Assets Company (IPC) on one side and the Kishon River Authority on the other, with the committee in the middle. The IPC wants to ensure sufficient land will be available to expand the port to meet future need, as the number of containers reaching Israel’s shores doubles every decade. To that end, the IPC has calculated that it needs 3,750 dunam (375 hectares) near the port.Some 2,500 dunams do not have to be near the water’s edge, IPC CEO Shlomo Brieman told environmental reporters Sunday, at a briefing in its offices. Nevertheless, that means 1,250 dunams do need to be in close proximity to the water.IPC and the Israel Lands Administration were set to sign a lease for the land, until the Kishon Stream Authority got wind of it and submitted its objections.The Kishon, which runs through the port area, has been undergoing a massive rehabilitation project for years. Part of that project involves building a public park along the banks of the river. To that end, 1,200 dunams by the river are required, Kishon Stream Authority head Sharon Nissim told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.During a tour of the area by the directors-general committee last week, Nissim called on the members to come up with a creative solution to enable a park for this generation and generations to come.The major national environmental groups have argued that the park is sorely needed for Haifa residents; the park is also backed by the national association of fishermen and 300 academics who signed a petition to the government.Meanwhile, a survey of 500 residents of Haifa and its environs conducted earlier this week by Dialog and released Wednesday found that more than 80 percent preferred a park to leasing the land to IPC.Seventy-eight percent said there weren’t enough green spaces in the Haifa area. The same number said that the park should be public property and not the property of the IPC.However, the northern branch of the Manufacturer’s Association and the Israeli Sea Holds Office both sent letters to the committee asking them not to “dry out” the port by reducing its area for potential expansion.Brieman said he did not object to the park per se, but insisted that IPC had checked out the alternative development areas and there weren’t any farther away. However, during the briefing, Brieman did say that a plot to the north of the disputed area around the Kishon, which was currently slated for development as residential housing, “would solve much of our problems.”“I spent hours trying to convince the investigator for National Master Plan 30 to adjust the plan and give us that plot of land, but to no avail. The committee will have to decide now,” he said.Brieman also said that relocating the air force base situated at the port would free up some 700 dunams.In general, the maps indicated that not all the businesses currently located at the port actually have any sort of connection to sea trade. For instance, Egged just won a tender to build a garage at the port, while a health clinic and a reception hall are also located in the area.It is up to the committee now to see whether it can balance all the conflicting needs of the city – economic development and employment through the port, housing, and open green spaces for the populace to enjoy.Knesset Health and Environment Committee Chairman Dov Henin (Hadash) said his committee would be holding follow-up hearings on the topic.
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