Leung Chun-ying says he is willing to surrender the 80-year-old official summer residence Fanling Lodge for new town development if necessary.
The chief executive was speaking as lawmakers questioned him about plans for two new towns in the northeast New Territories that are hotly opposed by villagers facing displacement.
Rejecting a lawmaker's accusation that he treated wealthy friends to champagne and barbecues at the lodge while planning to turn villagers out of their homes, he said the fate of the retreat should be decided by planners. "If Fanling Lodge is needed for the northeast plans, I am very pleased to propose to the government that it be included in the development boundary," he said.
He also said it was impossible that the Hong Kong Golf Club's 170-hectare Fanling course was "off the radar" of development officials seeking land for homes.
Outlining his housing vision during a 90-minute question-and-answer session, he said people now in their 20s could move to the northeast New Territories when they married and had children in 10 years, while those who were junior secondary students could move to the northern New Territories when their turn came.
"For those who are now kindergarten pupils, their homes will be in the new reclamation areas 30 years away," he said.
But Labour Party lawmaker Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung accused Leung of deliberately leaving the golf course and lodge out of the new town developments. "How will you feel when you are treating your friends with a golf membership there, sipping champagne and having a barbecue while the villagers nearby are facing the prospect of having to leave the homes they have had for generations?" he asked.
Leung rejected Cheung's accusations, saying he had never invited developers or businessmen to the lodge, only secondary school students and full time advisers of the Central Policy Unit.
While the golf course was not immune from redevelopment, "it can't be presumed that with the golf course, the northeast development would not be required and there would be no need to relocate homes".
He said the site could not be taken back just for the sake of it as planning for infrastructure and other facilities was needed. Otherwise, it would be left idle with "weeds growing on it".
"Will there be jobs there? Roads to the site? Enough water supply and drainage?" he asked.
Leung also rejected a suggestion from lawmaker Gary Fan Kwok-wai that there were thousands of hectares of vacant land across the city that could be developed.
On the property market, Leung said he would be the first to withdraw the government's cooling measures when the housing supply is stable. He reiterated that it would take time to build up the land supply, while rising prices were caused by global low interest rates.
Topics: Leung Chun-ying