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  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 4:37pm
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

daily
Anything this guy says or does is purely for his own beneficial interest...........he is no better (actually just as bad) than Paul Chan............it's people like these that makes HK a worse place than ever before.
johnyuan
Now just a day blinked in our eye that we hear everyone under the sun from present and past officials, property developer, SCMP commentators and its readers jumping into respective declaration on Country Park’s fate. The responses are strong but I have a deep feeling that we are playing in a sandbox. What worries me most is my feeling at the end just being a mirage. The trial balloon hoisted by the Development Secretary is just a formality for the real intent in gathering supports to play out in the public.
….
There should be a vigorous debate as SCMP today’s editorial has suggested. I will say get rid the sandbox and get some mature understanding with intellect to rule again the fate of our country parks.
HK-Explorer
It does not really matter. This has all been a big setup that was well planned. With all this government talk it shows that it is all a done deal with back room politics. Too many powerful people have a vested financial interest in this.
They are just slowly making their case. Phase 1 is to use someone already unlicked to shock us. Then slowly have more cronies come out in favour of it. Slowly wear the people of Hong Kong down until people get tired. Then 10% of our parks will be gone. Very sad for the people of Hong Kong and will make Hong Kong look bad globally.
Every other country is working hard to protect the environment while HK rich are just trying to become richer. (They have no care about the environment as they can send their kids abroad so they don't have to live in squaller).
caractacus
Quite, and it was what we would expect of Donald Tsang's crony system, but when he was out of office, so were his Exco appointees. More disappointingly, C. Y. Leung freshly appointed Lau Wong fat to Exco. Why?
Whose interests does Lau represent apart from the HYK, a minority of greedy villagers, and property developers who are muscling in on our Country Parks with the full support of Government and even the Town Planning Board which is supposed to protect against inappropriate development, but instead is allowing the developers to run riot?
caractacus
"Lau echoed Chan's view that flats could be considered in ecologically less sensitive areas of the parks."
"Lee Shau-kee agreed that country parks could be downsized."
Lau Wong Fat knows that the Country Parks are NOW experiencing massive environmental destruction from housing development driven by the Heung Yee ****. Develoment goes hand in hand with its old New Territories cousin, corruption.
The (non-indigenous) public is disgusted at the idea of using THEIR country parks for flats. If it did happen, guess who would benefit?
To the Heung Yee **** NO land is ecologically sensitive. They and their spoiled villagers only care about money. Almost all "indigenous villager" house applications are by absentees who will never reside in the village. Most live abroad.
Why can't all HK males (only of course) get free government land, permission to build a house (average cost about $1m) and then rent it out at a fat rent, or sell it and become overnight millionnaires, without lifting a finger? We could then perpetuate this corrupt system by collusion with government departments and rigging village elections such as by having non-resident indigenous villagers register as resident voters to elect our crooked choice, which nobody in Government checks. The VR can also make a fat income via inducements in return for his statutory declaration vouching for house applicants, which nobody in government checks, or he gets kick backs from the developers. Better than working for a living.
seikocreamy
Of course he agrees. More land to build village houses on and hence more land grabbing.
newyorkgirl
This indigenous right, is it practice in any other place besides Hong Kong?
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.
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.

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