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  • Dec 29, 2014
  • Updated: 6:00pm
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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grace.lai@gtomato.com
Agree
caractacus
This is a message to all readers:
You seem to have your hearts in the right place, so join an organisation which fights these evils and DO something instead of moaning about it.
johnyuan
This is my post elsewhere in today's SCMP -- 'Dreaming of a future utopia':
....
I witnessed US still was a religious country in the 60s and 70s. Then frequent aberration of religious teachings even occurred among preachers began to permeate in the late 70s on. After two decades of delay, US caught up too with Europe since after the WWII in putting religion practice on hold. The rise of rule by law and not rule by god seems it is a human evolution as well as a necessity where migration of people across borders and cultures become porous. If we look at US from 80s on, we see disintegration not integration of society to an extent that makes people nervous. The challenge of the idea that ‘God is dead’ perhaps needs to be challenged. May not necessary we must turn the clock back to the 60s how religions are organized but at least to knock some fear in all of us that circumventing rule of law doesn’t guarantee salvation – we must know “Man’s deterrence must exceed his grasp or what’s a hell for?” -- a mirror notion of "Man's reach must exceed his grasp or what's a heaven for?" by Robert Browning.
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.
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.
sman
Apartheid ? You have no idea what that is.
More like ethnic cleansing.
But by the British government who let a flood of mainlanders in (and those are now 'Hong Kongers) so there were no jobs for the locals.
Have you ever asked why they are "long disconected decedents [sic]" left. Its because they were pushed out because of this "mainlanders" flood. And then the government stole their land by paying a pittance for land resumption and not letting them build outside their village zones. If we owned much of central London, we would be fabously wealthy - as it is only some (not all indigenous villagers) who have land within the village zones are money, and ever fewer wealthy because of it.
Maybe it should not be based on birth policy. We should've allowed all who own the land to do what they want. The villagers would've then built on the land themselves or sold it at fair market value to these immigrants. But the government did not allow this as they wanted the money for themselves. HK is one of the few places in the world where you pay so much tax to build.
Please try to understand the others perspective/history before you use words like apartheid. But again you are another "Hong Konger" who cries unfair at everything.
sman
I'm sure many indigenous villagers wouldn't mind letting women have the same rights. We can build twice as much.
But realistically, people no longer have huge families with lots of sons. I have one of each and would also like my daughter have the option of staying in the village. And there are no official 'ownership' rules on whether girls can inherit the house.
Obviously I and many of my generation are not of the dark ages. But I think my proposal would be horrific to government.
The real problem is that the government should get out taxing property. But then it will cause a property crash. Then there is no problem about unfairness and 'free' houses for indigenous villagers.

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