Consultant seeks overseas professionals for ambitious HK$100m project to bring back countryside to city ACLA, the master planning division of Hyder Consulting and lead consultants for the Greening Master Plan, has built a dedicated team of 23 to supervise Hong Kong's most ambitious planting project. It includes landscape architects, arborists, town planners, project managers and engineers. The international team comprises specialists from Hong Kong, Britain, the Netherlands, the United States, Turkey, South Africa, Australia and the mainland. With two 'pilot' pockets of the plan completed in Central and Tsim Sha Tsui, recruitment will soon be under way to boost the team to about 70 to supervise the next planting phase of the project, extending across Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, which starts later this year. ACLA is especially on the lookout for engineers, landscape architects, supervisory staff and field officers with qualifications in horticulture and arboriculture. Sub-contractors will be hiring hundreds more staff to deliver, plant and maintain around 4,000 trees and nearly a million shrubs over 15 months, starting in September at a cost of HK$100 million. Recruitment overseas has already proved necessary due to a severe shortage of landscape specialists in Hong Kong. ' [Landscape specialists] are very difficult to find,' said ACLA associate Johannes Spies. 'There is also a huge demand internationally, not least since developers now realise that good quality landscaping can raise property values by as much as 30 per cent.' The University of Hong Kong introduced a master's degree programme in landscape architecture some 15 years ago, largely in response to 'new town' developments incorporating parks and green spaces. With only around 20 students graduating every two years, supply was not even coming anywhere close to meeting demand, Mr Spies said. 'We have been turning to universities in China, such as Guangzhou, to recruit graduates. We have three on our team so far.' Those pioneering the 'greening' of Hong Kong were finding it an especially satisfying challenge, noted project manager David Knight of Hyder Consulting. 'Generally, the public complains about what we do, for the inconvenience it causes. But it is completely different trying to bring the countryside back into the city because people are all in favour of it,' he said. 'It makes a very pleasant change to work on a project where people appreciate what we are doing.' ACLA is a major landscaping specialist in Hong Kong, with notable projects including the Jockey Club's Kau Sai Chau Public Golf Course in Sai Kung, which was rehabilitated from a former firing range, and equestrian courses for the 2008 Beijing Olympics at Fan Ling and Sha Tin. The firm has completed more than 70 landscaping contracts in Hong Kong, from hospitals and schools to numerous private developments. Across Asia, projects have included integrated 'liveable' industrial cities in Vietnam and Qatar, an award-winning 'sustainable city' for two million inhabitants in the Egyptian capital Cairo and a landscaping master plan for Kuala Lumpur. 'But our biggest market is mainland China, on property developments, business parks and urban renewal projects,' Mr Spies added. 'Landscape architects are in high demand as consultants for every new major development over the border. It's a new trend in our profession.'