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  • Oct 1, 2014
  • Updated: 8:38am
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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HK-Explorer
Of course this is Hong Kong land belonging to the people of Hong Hong that is being given away for free to so called indigenous people as the Government is scared to say "No" to the rural strongman.
Not only is it being given away free it is being re-sold for many millions of $$$s that is free profit when they sell it on.
Live near your relatives is true as the relatives all live in western countries and not Hong Kong. The free millions of $$s stolen by indigenous villagers (from the people of HK) allows the indigenous to live a life of luxury in Aus, Can, US.
Lets stop HK segregation.
anson
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.
hardhang
Yes, heads you win, tails we lose ...
chuchu59
So, in your view, the land is yours and you bear the construction costs. I am no expert at this but from what I have read over the years, land is granted from the Government after a descendant of an indigenous villager applies for it and allows him to build a 'small house. That person then most likely gleefully pays for the construction cost and either sells or rents it out for a windfall. If the only wish is to live in the village with parents and relatives, IRDHK's suggestion seems an excellent alternative.
sman
This whole debate has been badly handled by the government (again) by directly asking if we should take up country park land for housing. In the England, with so much more land, has 13% of land under green belts set up in the 1940s, of which the most famous is around London.
It recently has streamlined planning to allow "sustainable development" which has allowed some developments in green belts. This is in recognition of the fact that you must allow some adaptation in response to the housing needs of the UK.
And yes, at the same time London has redeveloped run down areas (including its docks). HK with 40-70% (depending on who's figures) under country parks and much higher population density and lacking a large hinterland/country side, should also do both, redeveloping industrial sites and consider some development in green areas where local needs are greatest.
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.
sman
I don't understand you. You obviously cannot expect an urban area like HK to have as much countryside as UK villagers. 40% is not tiny when there is so little land for housing as well. 40% (70+% if 'farmland' is included) is a lot compared to England's 13%, which in addition already has vast areas of non green belt. To have this much area you will need to move to the countryside (or another country).
If you assume remainder is urban (ie 25%), then assigning 10% from both green belt (say 2.5% to 37.5%) and farmland (7.5%) almost the urban area by 50%, and voila, housing problem solved. Plus there are industrial areas - and if you dare, imagine all that waterfront housing if the ports are moved to Shenzhen (and less pollution - HK should decide whether it wants to a service/ business/ aviation hub or a manufacturing/ports hub, and not everything)
You should also read that other countries/cities have retained green areas without a specific 'green belt' policy.
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.
sman
Agree, should enforce the 'dings' for actual use in village, rather than for profit.
However you should note it is very hard to build outside village zones, let alone a 1km radius.
HK-Explorer
They should also end it with those already born. Hong Kong cannot manage to keep this going for another 40 years. It should end today. Also why do they each get their own 3 level building. Why can't they build an apartment block and each get a 800sq foot apartment. Will use allot less space and still give them a place to live that is far bigger than most people in HK.

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