Preserving Fanling golf club’s natural beauty must be a priority in housing debate
- Too many of Hong Kong’s environmental and cultural assets would be lost if part of the club grounds is given over to flats that would make only a modest contribution to solving our housing problem
All through my almost five decades of working in Hong Kong, one simple rule of thumb has helped guide me a lot: if you don’t know for sure, go and see for yourself. It served me well as a reporter on The Star newspaper in the early 1970s, then as an investigator in the Independent Commission Against Corruption, and in various positions in the government from 1980 onwards.
What’s wrong with the freshwater stream serving Mui Wo? Go and investigate together with an engineer from Discovery Bay development. What’s the problem with the street lighting in a Lamma village? Go and look with some local villagers.
After all, I am not a member of any golf club, and I do not play.
And at first blush, the Fanling club does not seem naturally deserving of sympathy. After all, its image for a long time has been of an old-fashioned sports venue with a whiff of being something of a colonial relic, a game played mostly by wealthy foreigners. And even if more locals are now engaging in golf, it’s still mostly for the rich elderly, right?
But then the issue became controversial and a topic of public interest. The RTHK radio show I co-host has also discussed the subject on some occasions. So I felt obliged to go and look.
The sheer beauty of the site takes one’s breath away. The fresh air is a treat for the nostrils, the grass is so green and well-tended it is almost too sharp for the eyes to absorb. And the trees – everywhere you look as far as the eye can see, they fill your heart. A corner of woodland paradise in a city that can sometimes seem like a concrete jungle.
Within a few minutes of arrival, you know that the site must be preserved for future generations.
And by one of life’s interesting coincidences, the chairman of the Advisory Council on the Environment is Stanley Wong Yuen-fai, former chair of the Task Force on Land Supply, who is thereby in a position now to mark his own homework as it were.
The winning formula here is surely to preserve an area of outstanding natural beauty, including a world-class sporting facility, while looking into lease terms and improving public access. That way, a city treasure is retained while all citizens become stakeholders.
Mike Rowse is the CEO of Treloar Enterprises