image

Hong Kong housing

Hong Kong land supply task force members urge openness to ideas, including country park building

Think tank official claims city needs 9,000 hectares over next 30 years

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 August, 2017, 1:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 August, 2017, 1:20am

Two members of a new expert committee tasked with helping Hong Kong prioritise land sources have called for a fair-minded discussion of all ideas, including building in country parks and reclamation.

But every proposal should be cost-effective and sustainable, balancing factors such as the environment, economy and society as well as competition from other cities in the region, they said.

Stephen Wong Yuen-shan, a member of the 30-person Task Force on Land Supply and head of public policy at the think tank Our Hong Kong Foundation, said there was a need for advanced, long-term strategic planning on how to source new land for development. He claimed the time frame for such efforts would be 10 to 20 years.

Wong estimated the city would need about 9,000 hectares over the next 30 years – the equivalent of three Sha Tin-sized new towns or 300 projects the size of Wang Chau, a government housing project in Yuen Long that sparked controversy last year for displacing three villages.

“Even a one-hectare site can cause so much opposition. Think about the complications of 300 Wang Chaus,” he said on a radio programme on Wednesday. “Each stand-alone proposal will have tens of thousands of reasons for objection. We must look at it comprehensively.”

He believed land supply strategies such as reclamation and building on the fringes of country parks would have to be discussed and studied.

Another member, Lau Chun-kong, of the Institute of Surveyors, agreed and said current reclamation proposals were too piecemeal.

“Reclaiming land outside of Victoria Harbour will be an important source [of future land],” he said. “In the past, whether it was on either side of Victoria Harbour or new towns, a lot of the land came from reclamation.”

There are too many voices in the task force supporting country park development and almost none opposing it
Lam Chiu-ying, Countryside Foundation

Lau claimed discussions to develop country parks would be a long process. But he said he supported the scientific study of such proposals, adding: “We will have to consider what the advantages and disadvantages are and whether it is worth it.”

The surveyor believed cost-benefit considerations for new towns should clearly reflect future investment returns from land sales as well as construction costs, traffic, potential job opportunities and ancillary and community facilities. They should also maintain business competitiveness.

Lam Chiu-ying, chairman of the Hong Kong Countryside Foundation – and not a member of the task force – urged members not to deviate from the city’s existing development policies and principles.

“It’s regrettable there are no environmental professionals on the task force, nor anyone representing the leisure and recreation sector,” he said. “There are too many voices on the task force supporting country park development and almost none opposing it.