‘Quite a bit of space’: Hong Kong development adviser who says Lantau Island is underused met with scepticism and silence

Local concern group warns of ‘a plunder of invaluable natural resources’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 January, 2016, 3:44pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 January, 2016, 2:49pm

An ambitious plan to transform Lantau Island into a new tourism and recreation hub of Hong Kong had been met with heavy scepticism by community activists in the city yesterday, while two major businesses operating on the island gave no immediate views towards it.

The plan, which will see the development of 14 recreational and tourism areas in Hong Kong’s “backyard”, was unveiled on Sunday in a report by the Lantau Development Advisory Committee, a government-appointed group which spent two years working out its vision for the island in years to come until 2030.

“The report merely proposes using Hongkongers’ land resources to build facilities for mainland tourists such as a theme park and a water park,”said Eddie Tse Sai-kit of the Save Lantau Alliance, a coalition of five community concern groups formed in 2014. The group had already garnered over 3,000 likes on Facebook as of last night.

Tse said the suggestions in the 33-page report, which included opening a spa resort at Cheung Sha Beach in south Lantau and turning Mui Wo into a water park, amounted to a “plunder of Hongkongers’ invaluable natural resources” on Lantau.

READ MORE: Disneyland expansion part of massive Lantau land reclamation project to house 700,000 more by 2030

“[Lantau’s] original planning aim was to give Hongkongers a place to go on holiday to get some quiet time,” he added.

Despite the immediate backlash from concern groups, a member of the advisory committee, had came out to defend the report.

Lau Ping-cheung, one of the 20 non-official members of the committee, said on radio yesterday Lantau Island had enough space to accommodate the proposed development, which he said were in relatively small scale and would not pose much conflict with conservation.

“Kowloon South and Hong Kong Island combined are about 126 square kilometres and house half of the city’s population,” said Lau, who is also the founder and chairman of the Hong Kong Coalition of Professional Services.

“Lantau is 147 square kilometres and some 100,000-plus people live there,” he said. “So there’s actually quite a bit of space.”

Meanwhile, two major business operators on the island gave no specific replies yesterday on whether they would support the proposed development, which the advisory committee said would greatly boost tourism and create jobs.

“Hong Kong Disneyland Resort notes with interest the release of the report,” said a spokeswoman for the resort.

READ MORE: Hong Kong Disneyland visitors face increased ticket prices despite tourism downturn

A spokeswoman for cable car operator Ngong Ping 360 also made no comments on the report’s suggestion to extend the route to the fishing village of Tai O.

In September last year, Stella Kwan Mun-yee, managing director of Ngong Ping 360, had expressed concerns of overcrowding in Tai O.

News of the plan also did not excite Cinderella Chiu Sin-ting, a project officer of the Tung Chung Community Development Alliance, an advocacy group for grass-roots living in the area.

“The facilities proposed don’t fit the residents’ needs,”said Chiu, who doubted whether the new facilities would benefit the 80,000 people living in Tung Chung, of which 70 per cent of she said had to commute out of town for work.

Chiu said the group had been calling for more playgrounds, markets and start-up spaces in Tung Chung but she could not find them in the report.

“The residents won’t be able to enjoy the spa and water parks. They will be expensive,” Chiu said.

“What is the purpose of the report?” she asked.

According to the Planning Department, Lantau Island is home to about 180 species of butterflies, more than 60 species of dragonflies, 40 species of reptiles and nearly 20 species of mammals.