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  • Nov 28, 2014
  • Updated: 3:54am
NewsHong Kong
HOUSING

Heung Yee Kuk leader backs idea of country park flats

Lau Wong-fat urges review of protected areas, saying homes could be built on less ecologically sensitive land to ease city's housing shortage

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 September, 2013, 5:06am

Rural strongman Lau Wong-fat has suggested flats could be built in certain areas of country parks to ease the housing shortage.

He called for a review of the size of the parks, but rejected a suggestion that land allocated to indigenous villagers be rezoned to boost the supply of homes.

There's no universal standard for setting the size of country parks. It would depend on the local context to decide its proportion

Lau, chairman of the Heung Yee Kuk, said a review would help the government strike a balance between protecting the countryside and addressing the soaring demand for flats. He also said private land inside parks should be released to build more flats.

"There's no universal standard for setting the size of country parks. It would depend on the local context to decide its proportion," Lau said yesterday.

His comments came two days after Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po floated the controversial idea of building flats in country parks, which was seen as a radical departure from the chief executive's pledge during his election campaign to protect parks from development.

Lau echoed Chan's view that flats could be considered in ecologically less sensitive areas of the parks. "For land [in parks] that is worth protecting, the government should specify them and compensate the owners if they are privately owned."

But he rejected outright the idea of allowing the rezoning of village land reserved for indigenous villagers to build homes. He said: "The government has plenty of land. How come it is eyeing privately owned land?"

And he expressed disappointment at the administration's failure to meet demand for homes from indigenous villagers, comparing it to the scramble to find land for urban dwellers.

Henderson Land chairman Lee Shau-kee agreed that country parks could be downsized. He said reducing the parks by one per cent could provide land to house more than 100,000 people.

But such ideas were criticised by ex-officials, including former planning director Peter Pun Kwok-shing and former Observatory director Lam Chiu-ying.

"The way we decided a country park's boundary is not science or derived from calculations," Pun said. "But I won't say it's arbitrary. We consulted the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department and other experts."

Factors taken into account included the need to protect water catchments, trees and animals, and preservation of the topography. "We need a study to justify why we need to redraw the boundaries," he said.

Lam, who helped Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying formulate the environmental policies in his election manifesto, likened the idea of building flats in country parks to a cancer cell. "If you give away 100 square feet now, later you will ask for 100 square feet more. Ultimately, it will destroy the original aim of having country parks, which is to enable the public to enjoy nature."

Green areas, including woodland, wetland, barren land and country parks, make up 70 per cent of the city's land. Country parks alone make up 40 per cent.

The new administration has relaxed its planning rules to allow flats encroaching upon green belts and open space.

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This article is now closed to comments

whoaman
After living in a few different villages all around the NT, one thing stands out to me. Every village was a DUMP - these indigenous villagers (some that can't even speak Cantonese since they've been in the UK for so long) have no respect for the land, just their own wallets. Most common areas in villages are full of garbage, old cars, pipes, etc... Only one village I lived in was clean and orderly, because it was managed by the government. But even now it slowly is being taken over by clotheslines, broken flower pots, etc.
This guy should go - he belongs in rural China where women are often still considered 2nd class, not modern Hong Kong (of course the NT is still in the dark ages in many ways because of villagers mentality).
Byebye
Correct me: "Do the lands in New Territiries belong to the people of Hong Kong for the people of Hong Kong, not just indigenous people?"
mymak
Look, this is a ridiculous situation that is almost unique to Hong Kong. The land belongs to the village, but who are the village? It's not just you guys anymore. You sold it, you encouraged new residents. You can live in our village. It is now ours as well. You can, if you cannot afford to buy a house, rent one. You can live with all the uncertainties and challenges that all the rest of Hong Kong lives with on the same day. You can become one of us. You can become a Hong Kong person. We do not want separation or special rights, we want a cohesive and stable society where all have equal opportunities. You are also free to run as village head, but there would only be one village head and it would be open to all.
FYI if you are one of those non-local indigenous villagers who has been away for some time, you get the land (approved for building by the HK Gov't) then you ask a developer to build a house. The developer keeps the top floor to sell and make a profit. You keep the ground floor to live in and the 1st floor to either sell or rent out. You don't need to spend one cent. This is how it is actually done in the NT. I hope this helps you.
HK-Explorer
If you take population density to available green space then you will find Hong Kong has allot less green space than UK. Hogn Kogn is tiny thus 40% is tiny. Also most of the green space is mountainous which is not suitable for building housing (too much infrastrucure required and bigger impact on environment). It is also generally not suitable as park land as people cannot walk up /down it except on some paths.
The government will be building on country parks that are flat and even 1% of this will have a massive impact on accessible space. There is not that much flat space in hong Kong so it will be massive impact.
pompeychimes
It seems that everyone agrees that LAU is in it for his own good. He is a truly unpleasant and greedy individual. Not one good word has been written about him in this comments section. Yes most of the people who have posted comments are probably expatriates with morals & scruples which set them apart from LAU and his Indigenous supporters. However The BL gives rights to the Indigenous Villagers. Better to enforce the policing of these rights than remove them. Make the criteria for claiming Indigenous Rights stricter and enforce them.
For instance to be eligible an Indigenous Villager should have lived in Hong Kong for his whole life up until he claims his 'rights'.
Prevent them from selling the land or property built on it.
Cease the practice of 'flying dings'. The Indigenous Villager should only be permitted to build with a 1 km radius of his village.
All applications must be planned and provide services, EVA and parking.
Basically make it so difficult for these Indigenous Villagers to build Ding Houses that only those who are law abiding members of the group will be interested, or able, to do so.
As for Paul Chan, well the less said the better.
HK-Explorer
There are no empty factory buildings. That is a misconception that some people have. There is such a lack of office towers that all factory buildings are already offices, storage etc..
If there really were old empty factory buildings to you not expect their owners will be out in full force pushing for changes in policy?
No, the factory building owners are staying very quiet as they are already aware factory buildings were secretly converted over the last 10 years into office buildings. You will find occupancy of factory buildings is close to 95% as they are cheaper than other locations.
chuchu59
Reason being anything Lau says or does is pure greed on the side of indigenous villagers and harmful to the rest of Hong Kong.
Kubrick
Allowing LAU Wong-fat into EXCO was the most reprehensible thing Donald TSANG did as CE. LAU is a property developer seeking to protect his own interests.
caractacus
There is nothing like this anywhere else in the developed world, for good reason, it is rotten.
caractacus
Not a word from you about protecting the countryside. It is always about YOU. The boom in house prices is causing thousands of absentee 'villagers' to apply for houses, and disgracefully, the N.T. District Lands Offices and Town Planning Boards are giving them and developers permission to build. This is the main driving force behind environmental destruction and corruption in the NT. If you live in your ancestral village, you have a case for building a house if you NEED it for your own family to live in, not if it is simply to rent out or sell, and NOT if you have sold a private plot to a developer, which many have. Most house applications are made by absentee villagers who do not and never will live in the village, so why should they get free land and a cheap house? The building cost is not $2m, It is about $1m and you get FREE government land. Who else in the world gets that sort of a windfall? The only time you pay land premium tax is when you sell the house, which, considering you got the land free, is pretty good. Better than doing an honest day's work isn't it?
And why should this system be allowed to continue? Just because you had a male ancestor who lived in the village in 1898? It is totally unsustainable and if not for government collusion and the unsavoury influence of the Heung Yee ****, would not be allowed to continue for one minute more.

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