Development Bureau forum on 2030 Plus vision leaves public none the wiser

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 December, 2016, 5:31pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 December, 2016, 10:14pm

I attended the Development Bureau’s second “public engagement” forum on December 18 on its “Planning Vision and Strategy Transcending 2030” ( or “2030 Plus”).

I can attest that the public was not engaged, but patronised and stonewalled by the five government officials there, aided by a biased moderator.

A Planning Department official consumed a quarter of the allotted time with a 2030 Plus presentation full of graphics and feel-good buzzwords like “smart, green, resilient city”, and “urban-rural-nature integration”.

In concrete terms, these jaunty concepts boiled down to creating 1,200 hectares of land for two new towns, New Territories North and East Lantau Metropolis, involving large-scale reclamation, extremely high costs, razing villages and displacing their inhabitants.

Understandably concerned, many in the audience sought specific answers during question time. They submitted their names to a lottery and, if drawn by the moderator, were permitted to speak.

He drew 10 to 15 names at a time and grouped all their questions in one batch for officials to address. This ploy allowed officials to gloss over or simply not respond to many questions.

I would like to look at a few of the questions they didn’t answer.

What is the government’s cost estimate for the East Lantau Metropolis? Comprising 1,000 reclaimed hectares around two islands east of Lantau, this vast new city is likely to cost over

HK$400 billion. Its feasibility study alone costs HK$248 million, the costliest such study in the history of our infrastructure.

Why won’t the government release the five consultancy studies on the metropolis and Lantau? Why won’t it even disclose a 20-year-old cost estimate for a tunnel connecting Hong Kong Island to one of the two islands? This estimate is in a government study for a 1990s plan to build a new town on reclaimed land around Green Island; a similar tunnel is likely to be built for the metropolis.

Why can’t the government acquire the land from brownfield sites, developers’ land banks, and the 900 hectares reserved under the small-house policy?

Or why not terminate the lease of 163 hectares to the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling and use the land for public housing?

A director of developer Hopewell said Hong Kong needed the golf course as Asia’s world city. Mindful perhaps that some audience members may live in subdivided flats, even the five officials remained silent on that score.

Of the 30 audience members who spoke, 26 spoke against the government’s plans.

Chai Kim-wah, Lantau