Reclamation unpopular, new towns must protect culture, ecology: poll

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 June, 2013, 12:56pm

Most supporters of a controversial plan to develop three new towns in the northeastern New Territories say the government should take cultural and ecological concerns into account, a Chinese University poll found.

The survey also shows the government's desire to reclaim land to boost the city's residential land supply is unpopular.

The findings come as officials are due to release the final development blueprint for the project this summer and as a public consultation on reclamation closes on Friday. The New Territories project and land reclamation are key elements of the city's long-term land supply strategy.

More than 70 per cent of the 1,001 people surveyed by telephone by the university's Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies said the city was short of residential land. But few thought reclamation outside Victoria Harbour was a good solution.

Reclamation was supported by only 40 per cent, and ranked sixth on a list of seven options to boost land supply. Respondents were much more in favour of speeding up development in existing built-up areas, with 92 per cent backing the idea. Reclassifying non-residential land as residential land won the support of 77 per cent.

"Reclamation doesn't seem to be the most suitable option, nor does it best match public expectations," the university's Dr Joanna Lee Wai-ying said in announcing the poll results yesterday. "[What officials have said] shows an expectation gap between the government and the public."

The government says reclamation is an "easier" option, as it does not involve acquiring land or compensating anyone. It is seeking the public's views on six proposed sites in Lantau, Tuen Mun, Sai Kung, Sha Tin and waters between Hong Kong Island and Lantau.

The poll found 82.3 per cent of respondents agreed with the plan for three new towns in the New Territories. But Lee said: "This is conditional support. Even those who support the project in principle have their concerns."

About 40 per cent of the supporters said officials should give priority to preservation of historical and cultural sites and ecological resources. Almost one in five saw protecting locals' way of life as the priority. Only 11.3 per cent said maximising residential land supply should be the top priority.

Opponents of the development said they feared destruction of villages and that it would lead to further integration with the mainland.

Roy Tam Hoi-pong of Green Sense said the poll ignored the voices of the villagers who would be most affected by the project.

The government is due to release the final blueprint for the three-town project this summer. It will involve clearing the homes of thousands of non-indigenous villagers in Fanling North, Kwu Tung North and Ta Kwu Ling-Ping Che to build 54,000 flats. Officials are understood to be fine-tuning the scheme to address opposition from villagers and from developers who object to their land being acquired.

Responding to the poll, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said on Tuesday that the results “are totally in line with” the government understanding on the northeastern New Territories development plan. Leung did not address the concerns raised by respondents to the poll.