Community opposes Hong Kong government’s proposals for Lantau Island development

Concern raised over plan to reclaim 1,000 hectares of sea and an effort to draw more tourists to the island

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 November, 2016, 8:42pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 November, 2016, 9:08pm

A raft of government proposals for the development of Lantau Island have met with community opposition, according to the results of a three-month consultation process released Saturday.

The 388-page consultation report on the development of Lantau Island showed the government received more than 23,400 responses to the plan, which included 20 different development proposals, between February and April.

While about 59 per cent of the responses showed at least some support for the government’s proposals, a breakdown of responses revealed significantly less enthusiasm for certain plans.

More than 7,550 comments were collected on the government’s proposal to develop an “east Lantau metropolis” to the east of the island around Kau Yi Chau and Hei Ling Chau by reclaiming around 1,000 hectares of sea. Almost three quarters of all respondents were against the plan.

No question that Lantau Island should be developed – but we must tread carefully

Concerns over the technical feasibility, the potentially harmful impact on the environment and traffic issues were raised by respondents, according to the report, which concluded that government should conduct further studies and provide the public with more information.

Meanwhile, 6,708 comments were collected on a proposal to relax driving permits for South Lantau roads, which are located near country parks and coastal protection areas. More than 75 per cent of respondents were opposed to the plan, citing concerns over excessive tourism and possible environmental impacts.

On the government’s proposal to develop shopping, dining and hotel facilities, conferences and exhibitions tourism, a marina and an ice rink on the island, 37 per cent of 919 respondents found the plan unattractive, compared to 31 per cent in support of it.

The report concluded that respondents may not have been familiar with concepts such as MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) tourism.

Another proposal to develop tourism in Tai O, extending the Ngong Ping cable car system to the fishing village and creating a new “zen conservation zone” around Keung Shan, received an overwhelming 92 per cent of respondents opposed to the plan.

Concerns centred on Tai O’s capacity to cater to more tourists. Even the operator of the Ngong Ping cable car, Ngong Ping 360, expressed concern over the proposed extension, saying it might overcrowd the small village.

“To respond to the public concerns about the environment and conservation raised during the [consultation] in a timely manner, we will set up a task force shortly to review ... those feasible conservation items that deserve implementation,” Secretary of Development Paul Chan Mo-po said.

“In addition, we expect to conduct a study in the first quarter next year to review the transport and traffic infrastructure network and services for Lantau and evaluate Lantau’s capacity to receive visitors.”

Spare Lantau Island from Hong Kong’s urban ambitions

Separately, an opinion survey conducted by Shue Yan University, and included in the consultation report’s findings, asked respondents to rate the government’s tourism and recreational ideas. The results showed that respondents found a biking and hiking trail network, a Lantau history museum and village life experience with a culinary heritage centre most attractive, while they disliked the marina, the ice rink, a wedding centre and segway facilities the most.

Chan said a blueprint for Lantau’s development and conservation is expected to be announced early next year after considering public views.