The latest batch of enclaves set to be incorporated into the city's country parks reveal an apparent change of strategy by conservation officials - this time they have focused only on sites where there is no private land ownership to avoid further disputes with rural leaders, sources say.
The latest plan affects three enclaves, all entirely government-owned and with good recreational and ecological potential. They are Nam Shan, a six-hectare enclave in south Lantau, plus five-hectare Fan Kei Tok and two-hectare Sai Lau Kong in Plover Cove.
They are the second batch of enclaves to be designated as country parks. The first batch, comprising Tai Long Sai Wan, Yuen Tun and Kam Shan, was endorsed by lawmakers late last year.
Opposition to the plans for Nam Shan, Fan Kei Tok and Sai Lau Kong is expected to be minimal, unlike that for Tai Long Sai Wan, where the plan is facing a legal challenge from villagers, who have also blocked the only access leading to their village.
"Amid the uncertainties with the [Tai Long Sai Wan] designation, officials believe it will be good to show the Heung Yee Kuk and rural leaders what they can gain after the incorporation," a source said. The kuk represents the interests of indigenous villagers in the New Territories.
It is understood that the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department is considering a number of proposals to improve the Sai Wan area and promote eco-tourism, including providing bed-and-breakfast facilities.
Another source said the non-confrontational approach was a "compromise between reality and public demand". "Despite the court challenges, the work on the enclaves should not be slowed down," the source said.
Officials have also reiterated their refusal to incorporate six enclaves that country park defenders are fighting to have designated as country parks.
They cited concerns about the sizeable villages and amount of private land ownership in Hoi Ha, Pak Lap, Pak Tam Au and To Kwa Peng in Sai Kung; So Lo Pun in Plover Cove, and Tin Fu Tsai in Tai Lam. A war-games centre in Tin Fu Tsai was also cited as an obstacle.
The Save Our Country Park alliance is now running a campaign to mobilise the public to oppose the government's outline zoning plans for the six enclaves, which they say have over-catered for village-house developments.
Designing Hong Kong's Paul Zimmerman said the government had still failed to address the small-house developments, which were "highly destructive in nature".