When Hong Kong needs more land for housing and progress, why rule out reclamation and country park fringes?
Environmentalists say no to reclamation and building on the periphery of country parks. Activists claim government-business collusion if land held by developers in the New Territories is released. They want to develop the Fanling golf course and the brownfield sites.
But even then, there will still not be sufficient land for Hong Kong to house its citizens decently, instead of in rabbit hutches. Hong Kong needs more land for its commercial activities, for logistics, warehousing, and container storage facilities. It also needs land for the innovation and technology, creative, and recycling industries, for tourism, and an expanded financial sector. We need more land for hospitals and elderly homes as well.
We need to attract more talent and workers for our industries, and more health care givers for our ageing population. Some argue that our future population projections are incorrect, or that our housing problem will be solved if we reduce the 150-a-day quota for family reunions from the mainland.
If we plan for a declining population, we will stagnate, much like some economies that are facing a similar situation. This is not what we want for Hong Kong.
If there was no reclamation in Hong Kong, there would be no Sha Tin, Tsuen Wan, Tai Po, Tseung Kwan O, Tuen Mun or Tung Chung as we know them, as they were all built partially on reclaimed land. The total land area of Singapore has been increased by about 24 per cent through reclamation and Macau by 160 per cent.
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Why can’t we reclaim outside Victoria Harbour? Why can’t we use the periphery of country parks with low ecological value for homes, when currently 40 per cent of Hong Kong’s total area is designated for country parks and only 6.9 per cent is for housing?
Major developers hold around 1,000 hectares of agricultural land in the New Territories. This can house hundreds of thousands. Why do some assume there will be business and government collusion if the potential of this land is unlocked?
Surely an open, fair and transparent mechanism can be devised whereby the developer can build on this land in exchange for some of this land being used for public housing or Home Ownership Scheme flats?
Hong Kong has debated enough, it is time for the government to act.
Vicky Davies, vice-chair, Business and Professionals Federation of Hong Kong