My Take

Kai Tak needs its sports facilities

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2012, 2:19am

You can't say our government does not learn from its mistakes. They just make new ones by taking home the wrong lesson. Out of the blue, a government housing adviser said a long-planned giant sports complex in Kai Tak should be removed to Lantau. This came despite long years of planning and public consultations, the end of which saw a commitment by the previous administration to build the sports complex over 20 hectares at the former airport.

In their zest to increase housing supply, it appears officials are ready to rip up previous agreements and consultations. Sports representatives and athletes are understandably infuriated and threaten to hit the streets. Seeing trouble, there is now a suggestion to build more flats at the West Kowloon arts hub instead to placate the sports people. That, predictably, upsets local art groups and arts administrators who are sceptical of the ad hoc plan.

Other semi-official compromise proposals have also surfaced; it's hard to know which ones are serious and which are just talk. One compromise is to scale back the sports complex to make room for more flats, but not as many as the government might like. Another is to increase the plot ratio in the arts hub so more flats can be built to make up for those not built in Kai Tak. So round and round we go. Shoehorning housing into these much-delayed sports and arts mega projects will almost guarantee that nothing will be built for a very long time.

Interestingly, the government's latest approach is the opposite of its bungled handing of national education. The official excuse for that debacle was that it had gone through years of public consultation, with public funding for schools already approved by the Legislative Council. Now officials want to ignore all previous public planning and consultations in Kai Tak and just "listen" to the people. The public, they presumably assume, are upset about rocketing property prices and demand more affordable flats. But people also want more recreational and sports facilities.

This time, unlike national education, the government might be better off sticking to the original plan. No one can fault the building of world-class, easily accessible facilities that cater to public recreation, elite sports training and international events.