Kuk threatens to delay rural land projects
Executive of body warns its 27 committees are preparing to 'wrestle' with the government over support to develop sites targeted for housing
Olga Wong and Tony Cheung
The Heung Yee Kuk yesterday threatened to delay land development in rural areas.
An executive of the rural body made the threat in a meeting with the development chief and professionals, two days after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said in his policy address that he had secured enough land to achieve his ambitious housing target.
"The government must gain support from villagers in the New Territories," the vice-chairman of the Sai Kung North rural committee, Leung Wo-ping, told Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po.
"All 27 rural committees of the Heung Yee Kuk are planning to wrestle with the government," he warned at a luncheon organised by the Association of Hong Kong Professionals.
"Even if we don't oppose development, it wouldn't do the city's economy any good if we delay the projects for 10 years."
Chan was invited to the lunch to talk about the new measures to increase land supply.
Leung's challenge came as it became clear that much of the land for housing and economic development in the medium to long term would be in rural areas.
The Development Bureau also announced yesterday the setting up of the Lantau Development Advisory Committee to map out economic and social development strategy for the island.
The relationship between the kuk and the government has been souring with several initiatives threatening villagers' interests, including the chief executive's hint of an end to the small-house policy in his election campaign. There is also the government's attempt to include rural land- described as enclaves - into country parks without compensation.
"In the past, the government often engaged us in its discussions…We are rational," Leung said. "The government should improve its relationship with us."
Paul Chan said later the bureau would seek better communications with the kuk.
Secretary for Environment Wong Kam-sing said a new system would be established to strengthen communications with the kuk regarding the enclave issue.
"I think we have always been open to negotiations with the Heung Yee Kuk," Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said after a meeting on political reform with kuk members. She said she hoped the government would continue to win its backing on land development.
Kuk chairman and lawmaker Lau Wong-fat, in a bid to calm the situation, said Leung's comment might be "too rude".
"We should sit down, talk, and see if a policy poses a threat to the people's way of life or health, just like with the Tuen Mun landfill proposal," he said.
Whether the land identified by the government can be rezoned or resumed for housing largely hinges on district support, including that of villagers.
Chan admitted the bureau had failed to rezone four of the 36 government, institute and community sites identified last year for residential use.
But he said the four sites - on The Peak and at Ma On Shan, Sha Tin and Kwu Tung - would provide only 360 units so it would not affect the government's goal of having an extra 470,000 public and private flats built in the next decade.