Hong Kong’s future depends on reclamation, committee says, as it backs plan for work at six sites

Task Force on Land Supply gives nod to plans for 1,400 hectares of new space

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 November, 2017, 10:34pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 November, 2017, 10:58am

Hong Kong’s future depends on reclamation, a government-appointed committee declared on Tuesday as it endorsed a plan to create a 1,000-hectare artificial island to the east of Lantau.

The Task Force on Land Supply gave its approval for six sites recommended by the government to undergo reclamation, to meet the city’s need for at least 1,200 hectares of new space before 2030 and beyond.

The body, charged with selecting the best solutions for Hong Kong’s dire land shortage, also discussed the viability of developing 140 hectares of idle government land, but concluded that the sites had only low development potential due to their small sizes.

But committee members admitted they had not surveyed all the idle sites.

Stanley Wong Yuen-fai, chairman of the committee, said its members had reached a consensus that to boost land supply, Hong Kong must rely on reclamation, which had so far created 7,000 hectares of new land – 6 per cent of the city’s total area.

“Hong Kong has always relied on reclamation to provide enough land,” he said.

Wong said the government had recommended five near-shore locations, including Lung Kwu Tan in western Tuen Mun, Sunny Bay and Siu Ho Wan on Lantau Island, Ma Liu Shui in Sha Tin, and southwestern Tsing Yi. Together these sites could provide at least 400 hectares, he said.

Coupled with the man-made island planned for eastern Lantau, the sites could provide 1,400 hectares by 2030 or beyond, Wong said.

He cited “many benefits” to near-shore reclamation, which had a relatively low cost and would result in larger areas of flat land in close proximity to existing infrastructure.

Boosting land supply not just choosing between country park development and reclamation, concerned parties argue

Committee members felt reclamation in these six places would have the smallest impact on the environment compared to other land solutions, and would present the fewest “insurmountable difficulties” in terms of technology.

But one controversial reclamation proposal for waters south of Cheung Chau was not discussed, Wong said, because the government had not provided any details.

This option had been deemed less practical due to the area being a habitat for porpoises, and Wong said he believed it would not be included in the task force’s future discussions.

Greg Wong Chak-yan, vice-chairman of the committee, said the body had listened to government introductions to its idle land, amounting to 921 sites.

He said the committee agreed with the government’s view that most of these sites were not suitable for development because they were too small or on slopes.

About half of the sites were smaller than 2,000 sq ft, he said. The smallest public housing estate in Hong Kong covers 12,000 sq ft.

But Wong admitted that the committee had not inspected every site and some members had raised concerns that some might still be suitable for development.

Further reclamation of Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour would be unacceptable

He said the government had promised to make public details of all the sites by the end of the year, including locations, sizes and current uses, so the public could monitor the land and find the best ways of using it.

Formed in August, the committee is tasked with studying 12 proposals for increasing land supply and selecting high-priority ones to be included in a citywide public consultation exercise early next year.

Other proposals include developing brownfield sites, filling in the Plover Cove Reservoir, constructing housing on the site of Kwai Tsing Container Terminals and building on golf courses.

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Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor last month said reclamation may be a necessary trade-off to preserve the city’s scenic country parks. But critics said Lam should not force residents to choose between these two options while ignoring other possibilities such as developing brownfield sites and making better use of land reserved for indigenous villagers.