Official land deal simply magic for Disney

Despite the search for locations to solve Hong Kong’s homes crisis, a reclaimed and unused 60-hectare site near the theme park will not be one of them

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 4:30am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 4:30am

I guess the government can’t jump on its high horse and blame big developers for hoarding idle land. Why? It’s doing exactly the same thing – at Hong Kong Disneyland.

There are a whopping 60 hectares of reclaimed land near the theme park that have been left idle for almost a decade. The huge plot of land is technically referred to as Phase II of the Disneyland expansion plan, as if it has a purpose. Of course, no such plan actually exists. And the 10-year option that Disney has on the land will expire in 2020.

Unused Disneyland plot could become temporary Dutch floral park

Remember the big fanfare Disney and the government made about expanding the park – with new features of Frozen and Marvel superheroes, and a redesigned Sleeping Beauty Castle? Well, they are all in Phase I, that is, within the existing park boundaries, and they extend well into 2023.

But in response to a question from a lawmaker last week, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah effectively said the government had no long-term plan for the idle land.

How about building much needed homes? Haven’t we been told that we are in a housing crisis and everyone needs to chip in?

No, the land is not zoned for such purposes, which are “incompatible” with the surrounding theme park. In any case, Disney has two five-year options to extend its hold over Phase II after 2020.

So, it’s another 10 years during which there may or may not be a park expansion.

But why was it left empty? It’s because after the land reclamation in 2009, the joint venture of Disney and the government did not receive any proposals to use the land for short-term purposes.

I am not making this up; Yau really said that to lawmakers. Providing reasons for doing nothing on idle land that cost hundreds of million to reclaim – what can make bureaucrats happier?

Disneyland expansion site open to other short-term uses, official says

But Yau has good news, having confirmed that short-term events such as “shows, concerts and exhibitions” are allowed on Phase II land.

Furthermore, some entertainment companies have approached the joint venture for short-term leases. So, idle no more?

A charitable interpretation is that there are undisclosed contractual clauses that make it difficult and expensive for the government to cancel those options for Disney.

More likely is that the government just wants to hoard land – for Disney.