‘2030 Plus’ master plan provokes more questions than answers

We only need to revert to the government’s desperate measures if we continue to allow extreme unfairness, exploitation and inefficiency in our land use

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 December, 2016, 1:59am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 December, 2016, 1:59am

For the longest time, I had believed that if all its other policy initiatives failed, the property and land supply policies of the Leung Chun-ying government would still be a defensible legacy.

But its defences and justifications sound increasingly spurious and hard to understand. Either their formulations are incoherent or there are hidden agendas – read special interests.

It took the government two years to produce its “2030 Plus” land development master plan. But every time an official comes out to defend or explain it, it leaves me scratching my head. According to assistant planning director Amy Cheung Yi-mei, Hong Kong might have to choose between building an artificial 1,000-hectare island east of Lantau and developing some of the city’s country parks, to fulfil a long-term need for land. She was speaking this week at an advisory body to the Country and Marine Parks Authority.

Come again? We only have a choice between trashing our marine environment or our country parks?

There are about 1,200 hectares of brownfields across Hong Kong, so why can’t we develop them first? Cheung says most have inadequate infrastructure and are usually remote. And country parks and a fake island in the middle of the sea come with developed infrastructure?

There are roughly 930-plus hectares of rural land earmarked for the building of small houses reserved for indigenous male villagers under the so-called ding rights.

Government’s ambitious 2030 land reclamation plan to cost HK$400 billion, group says

Even if we “bribe” some of them with cash compensation in exchange for their dubious land rights, it would still be much less than an estimated HK$400 billion needed to realise “2030 Plus”.

Developers large and small can cough up 1,000 hectares from their land reserves. And what about the tens of thousands of empty flats owned by speculators and the 26,000 rich tenants living on public estates?

Furthermore, as my friend Tom Yam has observed in a Post opinion piece, “2030 Plus” is premised on a future population of 9 million.

Yet, according to the Census and Statistics Department’s 2015 projections, “the Hong Kong resident population is projected to increase … to a peak of 8.22 million in mid-2043, and then decline to 7.81 million by mid-2064.”

The truth is, we only need to revert to the government’s desperate measures if we continue to allow extreme unfairness, exploitation and inefficiency in our land use.