Hong Kong housing

No magic wand to create land out of nothing in Hong Kong, says housing minister

Paul Chan denies government is sitting on idle land, saying not all 4,000 hectares in question is suitable and the development process can take years

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 October, 2016, 7:16pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2016, 2:38pm

The development minister has hit back at critics who question the urgency in finding land for housing when up to 4,000 hectares of government land lies idle across the city.

Paul Chan Mo-po also dismissed as a “misconception” the notion that any plot was readily available for building flats, citing the need to assess the impact of development on the environment and whether it fitted in with the surroundings, on top of building infrastructure to support the area.

It was the second week in a row that Chan had used his official blog to respond to critics of the land supply policy ahead of the expected release for public consultation this week of a government report on Hong Kong’s long-term development blueprint beyond 2030.

No question that Lantau Island should be developed – but we must tread carefully

The new strategy is set to replace the existing 2030 blueprint, which was formulated in 2007 and focused on developments in the northeast New Territories.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post in August, Chan disclosed that among the major topics to be included in the post-2030 blueprint would be developing a business hub on reclaimed land off Lantau.

Environmentalists oppose the idea of developing Lantau, while some critics have expressed concerns that Lantau could become overcrowded.

In his latest blog entry on Sunday, Chan wrote: “The government has to consider the urgency of needs and set priority when it comes to land development.”

The government does not have a magic wand to create land out of nothing and at the same time eliminate any impact
Paul Chan Man-po

He rejected as “impracticable” calls by critics that the government could make use of the 4,000 hectares of “vacant government land” to build flats, instead of large-scale development of rural areas.

The figure was derived from data released by the government in 2012, which showed there were about 4,000 hectares of government land zoned for residential, commercial and industrial, community as well as recreational use that was left idle.

“Much of the so-called vacant government land is just bare land between existing developed areas, or slopes,” Chan wrote.

“Developing land can take years. The government does not have a magic wand to create land out of nothing and at the same time eliminate any impact. The government cannot afford to leave land empty either.”

The blog piece followed remarks he made at a public forum on Saturday in which Chan said developed land accounted only for about 24 per cent of Hong Kong’s total area.

The amount of land made available for development since 2000 had grown by only 3,800 hectares, or 17 per cent, while the number of households had increased by 20 per cent over the same period, he said.