Hong Kong golf chief chips in to defeat his own argument

Far from maintaining club should be allowed to keep public land, Danny Lai has made an excellent case for it to be taken back as soon as lease expires

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 February, 2018, 1:28am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 February, 2018, 1:38am

The Hong Kong Golf Association chief executive has spoken out against a government task force proposal to redevelop the Fanling course to help meet the housing needs of the city.

I agree with almost all the arguments made by Danny Lai Yee-june. But unless I am mistaken, they point to the opposite of what he is trying to defend. Far from arguing the Hong Kong Golf Club should be allowed to keep the public land, Lai has made an excellent case for the government to take it back as soon as the current lease expires in 2020 and reopen it to the public.

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The Task Force on Land Supply has proposed building 4,600 flats on the eastern part of the course, or converting the entire 170-hectare site into 13,000 homes.

However, critics otherwise supportive of the proposals have argued the task force has “lowballed” the site’s potential for many more homes, unless it wants a low-density development for luxury flats.

In radio and newspaper interviews, Lai argued it was wrong of the government and the task force to pit the sport against housing and make it look like golf was only for the rich.

Don’t pit sports against housing, Hong Kong Golf Association head says as task force eyes Fanling course

He claimed that after a period of growth, the sport had not attracted as many newcomers in recent years. The problem was that the government had stopped leasing land to private operators and was not doing enough to promote the sport among the public.

Demolishing the Fanling site, according to Lai, would be detrimental to the sport without making a real impact on housing supply.

Agree, agree and agree!

A lovely playground for the city’s rich and powerful, the club has paid only a token sum each year for the government land over many decades. Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah said 40 per cent of 120,000 games of golf held last year on the Fanling course were played by non-members of the club, which has been citing the number to prove its outdoor facilities are open to the public. But an investigation by news website HK01 finds that the figure includes families and friends of members, and other club visitors. HK01 estimates the actual number is about 25 per cent.

If we accept the arguments of Lai, the only logical conclusion is that the government should scrap the redevelopment plan, take back the land and reopen it as a public park and other amenities, so that the public can enjoy this wonderful site and learn golf.