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Hong Kong housing

Study on developing housing by Hong Kong country parks ‘should be vetted by advisory body’

Country and Marine Parks Board wonders why Housing Society has not yet spoken to it about feasibility

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 August, 2017, 10:18pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 August, 2017, 4:26pm

A contentious feasibility study on developing the periphery of two Hong Kong country parks for public housing and elderly homes should be vetted by the statutory advisory body for such policies before it begins, the organisation says.

The Country and Marine Parks Board on Tuesday said at the last meeting of its current term that it would ask the Housing Society to furnish members more details, arguing there was no sense excluding it from consultations as parameters and direction were being determined.

The not-for-profit society announced in May the government had “invited” it to conduct an 18-month study on the feasibility of building public flats and homes for the elderly on two 20-hectare sites on the perimeter of Tai Lam and Ma On Shan country parks. The areas were deemed to be low in “ecological and public enjoyment value”.

“Because of how complicated it is to delineate the exact boundaries ... this board plays a very important role,” member Dr Man Chi-sum said. “I can’t see why the Housing Society has not come to speak to us yet.”

“Whatever the government or society wants to do, they should talk to us and listen to our concerns before moving to the next step.”

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The board must be consulted on any proposed changes to country park boundaries or the ordinance, which states a “presumption against development” unless there is “compelling need”.

Another member, Dr Billy Hau Chi-hang, said it was inappropriate for such a major decision to be taken without prior discussion.

“I understand [the study] is still in its early stages. But it’s exactly because we’re still at this early stage that it should be deliberated properly.”

Hau added that a study’s methodology and direction would affect its outcome. “If we wait for it to be over before requesting participation, many things will be irreversible.”

Dr Leung Siu-fai, director for agriculture, fisheries and conservation, said he would respect members’ wishes and ask the board’s secretariat to issue an invitation to the society. However, it was unclear when that would happen.

A society spokesman said it would consider an invitation when received.

Leung conceded that his department did not know the precise areas the society was studying.

The society previously said it would appoint consultants later this year to launch the study and that a final report would be submitted to the government upon completion.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the department told board members that bins along country park trails would be eliminated by the end of this year. A trial programme has seen the number already cut in half. Members were told litter collected along 11 trails in the programme had fallen between 33 and 89 per cent.

However, some members noted that rubbish collections at country parks overall had not declined. They urged the department to step up public education on general waste reduction.