COUNTRY PARKS

Villagers and government locked in land 'game'

Chief of a Sai Kung village exaggerates demand for land to build houses, while government drafts plan for park without verifying demands

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 March, 2014, 2:58am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 March, 2014, 2:58am

A village chief has dismissed the government's allocation of land for village houses as a bargaining game, as the Planning Department conceded there had been no verification of villagers' demands when drafting a plan for an enclave in Sai Kung East Country Park.

"Of course I have asked for more than the actual need. It's only a game," said Kong Sai-ying, a Tung A village representative.

The government would never agree to the full amount of land demanded by a village chief, so he could only bargain for more by asking for more, Kong said. "To me, the number is meaningless."

His comments came as the Town Planning Board agreed yesterday to increase the existing zone by 1.98 hectares for 79 new indigenous houses in Tung A and Pak A villages. The government had previously decided not to incorporate the enclave into the country park without giving a specific explanation. In a paper submitted to the board for discussion yesterday, the department said village representatives had asked for 80 and 148 housing sites in Tung A and Pak A respectively.

Those estimates covered demand from 148 male indigenous villagers living overseas who have drafted plans for building new houses in the two villages within 10 years. "The number is just a rough estimate. Many of the next generation are staying in the UK and are unsure if they will come back," Kong said. The villages currently have only about 50 residents in total.

The department said Tung A villagers had previously asked for just eight housing sites and it had not verified whether plans had been drafted by villagers for each requested site. "The latest figure of 80 … is based on a village representative's latest communication with villagers but there is no verification by a district land officer," the department wrote.

The additional requested land would satisfy about 35 per cent of the total 10-year demand forecast for small houses in the area, a popular hiking destination south of the High Island Reservoir.

But Kong said he had no objections. "It's hard to realise our right [to build a three-storey house] these days and I have to face that reality." He said there was little flat land in the area, making the construction of small houses very costly.

Under the new outline zoning plan, to be presented to the District Council and Heung Yee Kuk for consultation, village land will account for about 17 per cent of the enclave. Green-belt land will account for more than 65 per cent, while 13 per cent will be designated as a coastal protection area.