Leung Chun-ying

Green groups give Leung's housing drive thumbs down

Green groups warn the government's endless quest for more land will cost the city's ecology

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 January, 2013, 4:08am

Conservationists have given the thumbs down to Leung Chun-ying's maiden policy address for what they say is a development-led approach in the scramble for housing sites on land and sea.

Some even ask if the chief executive has honoured his election pledge of improving the ecology of the city after he proposed to reclaim more land from the sea and turn green belts into housing sites.

Eleven green groups issued a joint statement yesterday in response to the policy address, focusing on the conflict between conservation and development.

They also said the study for a comprehensive biodiversity strategy and action plan was doomed to fail if the government did not change its "development and housing-led" mindset.

They cautioned against the indefinite search for housing sites - on reclaimed land, arable land or green belts - without a clear direction of Hong Kong's population policy.

And they called for a study on the maximum population capacity for Hong Kong and said they hoped Leung would not ignore conservation in the drive for more affordable housing.

Samuel Hung Ka-yiu, chairman of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, said he could not find in the policy address any trace of what Leung had promised on improving the city's ecology.

"There is a gap over what he promised and what he delivered. Even the most loyal supporters of his environment platforms have quietened down," he said.

Hung said he was puzzled by a reclamation plan proposed by Leung for an area off Siu Ho Wan on Lantau Island because conservation officials had promised to set up a marine park nearby in mitigation for another reclamation project - for a boundary crossing checkpoint.

Peter Li Siu-man, from the Conservancy Association, said it was impossible to maintain a balance between conservation and development, because development had the upper hand.

Chan May-ling, chief executive of Friends of the Earth, said the government needed to consider the social costs of boosting land supply. "We can't just look at the benefits of being able to buy property at a cheaper price right now," she said.

Ho Ka-po of Green Sense said Leung had chosen the more difficult approach to meeting housing needs while ignoring easier options, like building more public housing on top of train stations.