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  • Jul 26, 2014
  • Updated: 1:27am
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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newyorkgirl
This indigenous right, is it practice in any other place besides Hong Kong?
caractacus
There is nothing like this anywhere else in the developed world, for good reason, it is rotten.
newyorkgirl
Thank you.
pseudotriton
Please do not destroy the country parks. They are not even suitable for building anyway, as most of them are either too hilly or too remote. Let's try our best to preserve the little green space left instead of turning HK into Coruscant.
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?"
anson
Universal suffrage does not mean that indigenous villagers should be allowed to elect a village head who holds all the power over those living there. Certainly not when over the years the male villagers have used their free land to generate cash and thus bring in new residents and these new residents often outnumber the indigenous villagers. Where I live the majority are non-indigenous residents and the majority of these are not expats but Chinese originally living in Kowloon or Hong Kong and even some who arrived a hundred years ago from other parts of China but are not classified as indigenous because of a not settling a few years earlier.
The point is that the free land/houses is unfair to the majority but equally damaging is the unfair and unequal political rights granted to what is now a minority to rule over the majority. There should be one village, one election, one vote for everyone over the age of 18. Then perhaps we could see the true power or not of Lau.
caractacus
Agreed. Our problem is that, the Colonial Government having created the "Small House Policy" in 1972 when it was already rapidly becoming an anachronism, three post handover administrations have not had the guts to tackle it and face down the thugs in the Heung Yee ****, the chairman of which is, amazingly, a member of Exco.
The really evil social injustice is that any male living and working anywhere in the world claiming to be descended from a male who was resident in a village in 1898 can get free government land and a cheap luxury house. Why?
May I make one small point? The word "Expat" is often misused as a racial label and an excuse to justify the common double standard that such people should not have the same rights as ethnic Chinese. There are many ethnic Chinese people working here on "Expat" terms on secondment from their country of nationality or residence. There are many non ethnic Chinese who are genuinely resident and get no 'expat' allowances.
sman
It is not free land, it is owned by the villager for hundreds of years. And not a free house as you pay to build on it. This can cost $2m maybe more depending on land cost. Before the housing boom not many were interested in this "unfairness". The real culprit is that the government imposes a huge tax on property, so creating a huge vehicle for Hong Kongers to gamble on by restricting property supply.
"Free housing" is government housing. Is that also "unfair" then. Again HK crying about unfairness again.
Why can't we live in our village, with our parents and relatives, and where our ancestors have graves for hundreds of years.
anson
One final point should you read these comments today. Nobody questions the rights of families to live together. My wife's brother lives with his parents, his wife and his children (3 generations together) in a small flat in Kowloon. This is the reality of modern day Hong Kong living. Why do you feel you are entitled to have 3 generations of your family living in 3 separate houses of 2100 square foot each? Why is my family in Kowloon not entitled to the same deal?
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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