Hong Kong needs comprehensive database for better land usage
A comprehensive database will help the government plan for appropriate per person living space to improve overall living environment
A recent report which showed as much as 142 hectares of land in Hong Kong that could be converted for temporary uses are left vacant, raising the question of whether the government is wasting land resources.
While the organisation claimed that it has arrived at this number by compiling information released by the Lands Department and available land related documents of various departments, the accuracy of such data may be questionable. But at the same time, the lack of comprehensiveness and transparency of land information from the government for the past many years also meant that it was equally difficult to verify these findings.
The issue in question therefore is, technology is needed to enhance efficiency.
The only response that the publication of this report has drawn from the Development Bureau was “it welcomes any suggestions about the use of land” and “interested groups can make enquiries from the Lands Department”. It also pointed out that over 70 per cent of short term land uses are reserved for public housing development or railway construction sites, and they should not be regarded as idle land.
Such ambiguity fails to clarify the matter and would only raise public scepticism and that the authorities are deliberately dodging the issue.
It appears that the government could only take on a low profile even in the face of what may be an amateurish investigation initiated by the community due to thelack of appropriate land use data to rely on.
With rapid advancement in technology, the government can certainly enhance its efficient and accurate management of the relevant land use information and data.
In fact, many cases have commonly reflected the lack of transparency and a comprehensive land information database.
In the Planning Department’s recent review on the use of 183 vacant school premises in Hong Kong to determine their appropriate long-term use, authorities found that a school in Sham Shui Po district has been operating in substandard premises for many years. The school has not been granted permission for relocation, when in fact it is right next to some vacant standard school premises. The site of the school has been re-zoned for residential development.
There are also six primary schools competing for two sites for relocation, but the authorities have not disclosed details as to how the land sites will be allocated and used.
A comprehensive “land information database” should cover, in addition to data on vacant land and developable land and so on, data of Hong Kong’s housing situation. It is hard to imagine how the government could set appropriate target of per person living space as a guide to improving people’s living environment when it has not even seemed to have grasped the data on per person living space in Hong Kong .
Hopefully, the new Hong Kong administration will be more proactive and will establish an open land resources database.
Since land is a public resource, the government should be accountable to the public on its detailed use. Besides, land information based on an official source will be deemed more authoritative, and can help prevent irresponsible speculations.
With more comprehensive information available, the public and the professional sector can also examine and plan to utilise some forsaken areas, thereby raising cooperation between the people and the government, and contributing to the development of Hong Kong.
Tony Tse is founder of Hong Kong Seek Road