Hong Kong will need land equal in size to Sha Tin every decade to meet the housing demands of its residents, especially the younger generation, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said last night.
Leung also said Hongkongers needed to pull together and make compromises to solve the housing problem, eschewing the "not-in-my-backyard" mentality of some district councillors and residents who have stymied government efforts to rezone land in order to build new flats.
Leung made the remarks before hundreds of young people at a forum held by the Junior Chamber International at the Academy for the Performing Arts.
Activists from the environmental organisation Green Sense and the League of Social Democrats protested outside the academy, calling for an end to reclamation and for accountability following the closure of the Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange which was founded by a key Leung ally, Barry Cheung Chun-yuen.
Leung entered the academy through the back door "because the organisers told him to", his spokesman said.
Referring to the large-scale reclamation for Sha Tin New Town in the 1970s, Leung said Hong Kong must be prepared to make compromises to ease housing needs.
"Every decade, we need enough land to build a Sha Tin," he said. "On land issues, there is no perfect solution; sometimes we need to make compromises or even difficult choices."
Sha Tin New Town, with an area of 35.87 sq km, is home to 630,000 people.
Since last year, the government has identified 36 "GIC" sites - designated for government, institute and community use - as suitable for housing.
But some proposals drew objections from residents who wanted to keep the sites for community facilities.