Time to sink Hong Kong cruise terminal for housing
The Kai Tak neighbourhood has proved to be a popular residential district and surely, when homes are badly needed, we have waited long enough for the underused HK$8b facility to take off
Another week, another bright redevelopment idea from the government’s Task Force on Land Supply. This time, it is bulldozing Tuen Mun’s River Trade Terminal, which is used for cargo moving between Hong Kong and ports in the Pearl River Delta.
The terminal, according to the task force, handles just 3 per cent of Hong Kong’s total container throughput, but takes up 65 hectares. Its 49 berths are underused and the port is only operating at 24 per cent of capacity.
There is just one catch. Many specialised industrial facilities would need to be relocated, possibly to a new reclaimed area. It could be 15 to 20 years before the site is made suitable for housing 60,000 people in 22,000 flats.
It sounds like a long shot. But while we are talking about taking down terminals, why not target that seriously underused Kai Tak Cruise Terminal? I know that’s heresy and will probably get me burned at the stake by government officials. But I feel I am in good company, as my Post colleague Jake van der Kamp has suggested plugging that financial sinkhole called Disneyland and use the site to build homes.
Consider the government’s auditor report from last year. Costing HK$8 billion-plus, the terminal, which covers about 8 hectares, enjoyed just 105 days in 2016 when there was a ship alongside either one of its two berths, leaving them idle for nine months.
Last year, almost half of its 5,601-square-metre commercial area was left vacant. The auditor also raised other concerns such as the under- usage of surrounding facilities for non-cruise activities and poor maintenance.
The Kai Tak neighbourhood has proved to be a popular residential district, with Wheelock Properties having sold its flats late last year at Oasis Kai Tak at record prices; and One Kai Tak, whose flats from its first phase were only available for permanent Hong Kong residents under a government scheme. More residential blocks are coming up.
Having oversold the cruise terminal’s popularity and economic potential, the government now argues we should wait as it will surely catch up. After all, cruise travels are growing at a phenomenal rate in Asia and mainland tourists are largely fuelling the surge. This can only benefit Hong Kong.
But how long should we wait? There are potential benefits but we have a housing problem now. The government should own up to its mistake and free up the land.