Jake's View

Here's some concrete ideas to spare parks

You can get the mixers ready and pour it over Kwai Chung port to start with, and we'll get those new flats while keeping kuk and friends at bay

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 September, 2013, 3:05am

The man named as the new chief of the Country and Marine Parks Board just as a debate on development in the parks erupted has vowed to be "impartial and fair".

Former commissioner of police Tang King-shing ... added: "It is very important that we strike a balance among various parties."

SCMP, September 11

Here is the scenario. On the one hand, we have a burglar who wants to break into a home, and on the other, we have the homeowner, who would rather the burglar be kept out.

How did you strike the balance between these two parties in your police career, Mr Tang?

But I don't expect better thinking from our chief executive in protecting the country parks. One of his election pledges was that they "should be protected from development as far as possible".

Next target: Disneyland. That’s 27.5 hectares – we can get a further 54,000 flats

You notice the weasel words. They were the same ones used for the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance and on that occasion were subjected within months to convenient interpretation. The process of turning our jewel of a harbour into the Kowloon Ditch then continued unhindered. Nor does it surprise me that Heung Yee Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat is in favour of slathering concrete throughout the country parks. Go for a drive west from Shek Kong through the New Territories, a district that is effectively kuk-administered, and you'll be astounded what a rubbish tip the kuk has made of the place. It's truly awful. They were getting in practice for the country parks.

Brother Lau was asked, however, whether village land in the New Territories should also be used for development and indignantly rejected the suggestion: "The government has plenty of land."

Excuse me, Sir, but wasn't the government's rationale for chipping away at the country parks that it did not have enough land for the 470,000 flats it is now thinking of building? Would you mind showing us where this plenty of land is so that we do not have to raid the country parks for it?

Let me do the job for him.

We start with the Kwai Chung container port, which only 15 years ago was still a port in its own right. It is so no longer. It is now predominantly a transshipment centre. The real port business has gone to where it naturally belongs, which is mainland ports just across the border. The big Kwai Chung operators know it, too, which is why they are the big shareholders in the mainland ports.

Government is slower on the uptake but eventually will have to face the truth. A container port in Hong Kong for goods made in Guangdong no longer makes sense when Guangdong can build its own ports. The future for Kwai Chung is the death of a thousand cuts.

But we can always make this a more merciful end by converting the 2.7 square kilometres of land there to housing at an earlier date. Cover a quarter of this land with 30-storey housing blocks featuring flats of 750 square feet (much larger than the average of our housing stock) and we get 290,000 flats. This waterfront site also offers superb transport connections and proximity to the city centre.

Next target: Disneyland, where we regularly lose money to treat mainland tourists to rides and shops styled to silly American cartoon themes from the 1930s. No one ever really wanted it except our then chief executive, Ah Tung, and Disney is in any case now going to where it really wants to be and where it belongs, Shanghai.

Hands up now, Hong Kong residents, how many of you have ever visited Hong Kong Disneyland. Twice? Really?

That's 27.5 hectares, more like 50, when you take in the ancillary land. With the same density as I envision for Kwai Chung, we can get a further 54,000 flats.

Then Science Park and Cyberport, two futile attempts to encourage hi-tech in Hong Kong only to have the space filled by low-end app writers and the like. Together that's 46 hectares, and both sites are already close to high-density public housing. Fill them out with a little more reclamation, and we could have a further 50,000 flats.

There, done and dusted, almost 400,000 flats in four redevelopment projects. Brother Lau is right. The government has plenty of land.