Land reserved for Hong Kong Disneyland expansion can be used for other short-term events, government says
Shows, concerts and exhibitions are compatible with site and proposals will be considered, according to economic development chief Edward Yau
Idle land earmarked for the future expansion of the Hong Kong Disneyland theme park could be used for short-term entertainment events if needed, the government said on Wednesday.
However, modular housing, as suggested by a lawmaker, would not be considered as it was more of a long-term project and “not compatible” with the use of the reserved land, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah told a Legislative Council meeting.
“Short-term events such as shows, concerts and exhibitions are compatible, and we will consider them if we receive any related proposals,” Yau said.
Pan-democratic legislator Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, who represents New Territories East, believed a concert by popular Taiwanese rock band Mayday last month proved the site was capable of hosting such events.
“The concert at Disneyland drew 20,000 people, which means the place is large enough,” Chan said. “It was a waste that the government and Disneyland didn’t use the idle land for such events before.”
The Lantau Island theme park, a joint venture in which the Hong Kong government is the controlling shareholder, obtained funding of HK$5.8 billion (US$746.3 million) from the government in 2016 for expansion. But that was later cut to HK$5.45 billion after lawmakers argued the original amount was unfair to taxpayers.
The Walt Disney Company, the park’s other shareholder, will invest HK$5.45 billion.
In 1999, the government reserved a 60-hectare (148-acre) site to the east of Disneyland for the second phase of the theme park’s development. Under the relevant option deed, the joint venture, Hong Kong International Theme Parks Limited, was given an option to buy the reserved land with a validity period of 20 years, meaning it would be due in 2019.
Lawmakers on Wednesday questioned whether the land would be used in the next few years given the slow pace of the park’s expansion and suggested the government use the man-made land for other purposes. Alice Mak Mei-kuen, of the Federation of Trade Unions, had asked the government if modular housing could be built on the site, given Hong Kong’s shortage of homes.
Disneyland said its expansion kicked off in late 2017 and would continue until 2023.
Pro-establishment lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun, who represents New Territories West, which includes Lantau Island, called on officials to end the “unequal treaty” signed about two decades ago when Hong Kong invited Disney to co-develop a theme park to rejuvenate the economy.
The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau told lawmakers that an estimated 9.1 million to 9.3 million people would visit the theme park in 2030, regaining growth momentum with new attractions and an overall improvement in the tourism sector.
The park’s attendance rose for nine consecutive years since opening in 2005, peaking in 2014. Attendances fell in 2015 and 2016, but growth resumed last year although there was a loss in overall earnings.
Over the past 12 years, Disneyland received more than 70 million guests, exceeding the government’s estimate of 59 million.
The park accounted for 0.35 per cent of Hong Kong’s gross domestic product, while creating a total of 232,500 jobs for Hong Kong’s economy over the 12 years in operation, the bureau said. However, the theme park saw its net loss more than double to HK$345 million in 2017 from HK$171 million in 2016.
After the land reclamation in 2009, the joint venture did not receive any proposals to use the land for short-term purposes, Yau told legislators. But it was in talks with some companies to rent the land for entertainment events. Yau did not name the companies since they were “still in negotiations”.
“We are not just considering one-off projects such as concerts, but also any compatible projects,” he said. “Before any development [of the expansion] is confirmed.”
Expansion running to 2023 would include themed zones based on the cartoon blockbuster Frozen and Marvel superhero films, as well as the transformation of Sleeping Beauty Castle.