My Take

Why New Territories new-towns plan makes a lot of sense

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 June, 2014, 4:03am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 June, 2014, 3:01pm

Amid all the fire and brimstone in and outside of the legislature over initial funding for two proposed New Territories towns, we have lost sight of what the plan actually aims to do.

My guess is that many readers and even some protesters have little idea what they are fighting over. There is nothing wrong building new towns in the north so long as they don't turn into another Tin Shui Wai; or become de facto satellites for mainlanders.

The plan, revised twice already since 2008, will house 174,900 people with 60,700 new units. Of these, 36,600 units will be public or subsidised housing, while 24,100 will be private flats. The public units will occupy 47.6 hectares, while private housing will take up 54 hectares. The whole proposed development project covers 333 hectares, of which existing village land, open space, zones for community and social services, commercial land, amenity and parks will take up the rest. Remember, we do have a housing shortage. While this plan in Kwu Tung and Fanling North will not solve the problem, it's at least part of a solution.

Critics like to point to several issues. First is collusion with big developers. In fact, the original plan was for the government to resume all their land. This was stopped after they threatened to sue the government. Since ours remains a capitalist system that respects property rights, we can't ban developers from building on land they have spent years acquiring for just such eventualities. Since they have extensive land banks across the New Territories, no new town development will be possible if we must exclude private developers from building on their own land.

Second, most villagers affected are classified as non-indigenous and so are considered "squatters", though they may have lived there for two to three generations. Most will be paid HK$600,000, in addition to being given public housing. I grant you it's not on par with payouts for a minority of indigenous villagers, but it is not unreasonable, and the HK$600,000 is likely to be raised.

My only complaint is that we didn't include the nearby Hong Kong Golf Club, with an area of 170 hectares, in the plan. I would love to see those fat cats complaining how it would be the end of the world without the greens.