Hong Kong risks ending up the loser at golf course
- Officials should reflect on whether it is worth encroaching on the Fanling green oasis that showcases one of our few international sporting events in a move that will have little impact in solving a housing crisis
A task force has dashed hopes Hong Kong’s top golf course will be eliminated from the search for land to meet the city’s housing needs, according to an inside source. Appointed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the Task Force on Land Supply has included the 32-hectare Old Course of the Hong Kong Golf Club’s 170-hectare Fanling site alongside brownfield sites and private farmland in short-term options providing a total of 300 hectares towards plugging a shortage of 1,200 hectares.
Redevelopment of the Fanling course was one of the most controversial of 18 options for meeting the housing crisis floated during a five-month public consultation. However, given that the task force is reportedly unanimous about redeveloping part of the course, the likelihood that the government will adopt the recommendation cannot be ruled out. The decision smacks of a political compromise, given that the area in question is such a small proportion of the short-term goal. Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin, who has backed resuming the entire course for housing, expressed concern that the task force did not go far enough.
The golf club hosts an internationally recognised tournament, an exception to Hong Kong being bypassed because its venues and sporting organisation are not good enough. In that respect, giving up a bit of Fanling that would make little impact on solving a housing crisis seems like shooting ourselves in the foot. And it is unlikely to be a simple solution. Making the land available to a developer for luxury housing near a world-class golf course would be an affront to the community, and using it for public housing would likely be an unpopular option.
It is not clear that other options have been given due consideration. Local non-governmental organisation Liber Research Community says the government has exaggerated constraints in freeing up land held by businesses on damaged agricultural sites. Since development of brownfield sites is considered one of the fastest ways to yield land within 10 years, officials should reflect on whether it is worth encroaching on a green oasis that showcases one of our few international sporting events.