More ac­tions needed to tackle HK’s land short­age prob­lems

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT - DAV I D W O N G

Based on the “Hong Kong 2030: Plan­ning Vi­sion and Strat­egy” pub­lished in 2007, the gov­ern­ment re­cently is­sued an up­dated ver­sion called the “Hong Kong 2030+: To­wards a Plan­ning Vi­sion and Strat­egy Tran­scend­ing 2030” for pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion. The re­port stated that it is a com­pre­hen­sive strate­gic study to up­date the ter­ri­to­rial de­vel­op­ment strat­egy. It has re­vis­ited the plan­ning strat­egy and spa­tial de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tion be­yond 2030 in the light of the dy­nam­ics and chal­lenges ahead. In other words, it rep­re­sents the gov­ern­ment’s vi­sion, pol­icy and strat­egy for the ter­ri­to­rial de­vel­op­ment of Hong Kong be­yond 2030. The plan­ning blue­print, up­dated around ev­ery 10 years, is cru­cial for Hong Kong’s de­vel­op­ment and mer­its more pub­lic at­ten­tion. It in­volves city plan­ning, land zon­ing, trans­port in­fra­struc­ture and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, etc. Ob­vi­ously, these types of doc­u­ments could only pro­vide gen­eral guide­lines and di­rec­tions, as it is im­prac­ti­cal to pro­vide de­tails on projects that could be 10 to 20 years into the fu­ture.

The term “land prob­lem” is com­monly used by the pub­lic to sum up the prob­lems and dif­fi­cul­ties many of us face in Hong Kong nowa­days. It is ev­i­dent that high prop­erty prices and rents as well as crowded liv­ing and work­ing spa­ces have af­fected al­most all as­pects of our daily lives. The cur­rent gov­ern­ment has re­garded de­vel­op­ing new land and al­le­vi­at­ing the hous­ing short­age prob­lem as its top pri­or­ity, yet the re­sult can only be re­garded as mixed at best. Let alone the year 2030 and be­yond, not enough suit­able land has been lo­cated for the de­vel­op­ment of pub­lic and pri­vate hous­ing es­tates for the next 10 years. De­spite re­peated re­stric­tive mea­sures to cool the prop­erty mar­ket, hous­ing prices have been re­lent­lessly in­creas­ing. It is still very hard for first-time buy­ers and fam­i­lies that wish to trade up for larger flats to achieve their home dreams. Surely, the lo­cal prop­erty prices are in­flu­enced by ex­ter­nal fac­tors, such as low in­ter­ests rates and strong de­mand from ex­ter­nal in­vestors, but de­vel­op­ing new land and re­zon­ing ex­ist­ing ones are the ex­clu­sive re­spon­si­bil­ity of the gov­ern­ment.

The ex­ist­ing use of brown­field sites in the New Ter­ri­to­ries as park­ing spa­ces for trucks and con­tain­ers is surely not the best uti­liza­tion of our pre­cious land re­sources. It can be said that there is pub­lic con­sen­sus to re­lo­cate the cur­rent users into multi-story in­dus­trial build­ings and re­zone these sites into res­i­den­tial and other de­vel­op­ment use. Un­for­tu­nately, the progress in the past few years has been painfully slow; the scheme is still be­ing con­sid­ered in a fea­si­bil­ity study. This is far from sat­is­fac­tory as there are ex­ist­ing mul­ti­story in­dus­trial build­ings in the city. These can serve such pur­poses per­fectly well with­out any tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties.

The land de­vel­op­ment au­thor­ity has re­peat­edly sug­gested that if we de­velop a small part of the coun­try parks, it would greatly al­le­vi­ate the short­age of us­able land. Such sug­ges­tions are usu­ally un­fruit­ful with ex­cuses like the com­mu­nity needs to think and dis­cuss this mat­ter or en­vi­ron­men­tal groups will def­i­nitely op­pose The au­thor is an ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber of the New Peo­ple’s Party and a for­mer civil ser­vant.

The NIMBY (‘Not in My Back­yard’) men­tal­ity of many lo­cal res­i­dents is a huge ob­sta­cle for de­vel­op­ment projects in Hong Kong and many other places in the world. How­ever, some of the re­sis­tance could be dealt with through bet­ter plan­ning.”

it. So far, no con­crete plan has been seen. There should at least be some ba­sic in­for­ma­tion — such as which part of the coun­try parks has high de­vel­op­ment po­ten­tial but low eco­log­i­cal value — avail­able to the pub­lic. With­out any cred­i­ble in­for­ma­tion to go on, the pub­lic can­not pos­si­bly have an in­formed dis­cus­sion on the mat­ter, let alone make a de­ci­sion. More­over, the author­i­ties have not pro­posed any mech­a­nism to re­solve the con­flicts of dif­fer­ent stake­hold­ers and sat­isfy as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble. If the pro­posal is in­deed deemed wor­thy of pur­su­ing, the gov­ern­ment should not re­treat sim­ply be­cause there is dis­agree­ment in the com­mu­nity. In other words, with­out prac­ti­cal ways to solve the many ob­sta­cles, any long- or short-term de­vel­op­ment plan would be com­pro­mised.

The slow progress of hous­ing de­vel­op­ment is of­ten blamed on dis­trict op­po­si­tion. In­deed, the NIMBY (“Not in My Back­yard”) men­tal­ity of many lo­cal res­i­dents is a huge ob­sta­cle for de­vel­op­ment projects in Hong Kong and many other places in the world. How­ever, some of the re­sis­tance could be dealt with through bet­ter plan­ning. For in­stance, the Hong Kong 2030+ re­port in­cludes top­i­cal pa­pers on the sub­ject of base­line re­views on in­fra­struc­ture pro­vi­sion, such as power and wa­ter sup­ply. On the other hand, what the res­i­dents re­ally care about is the likely im­pact of the new de­vel­op­ment pro­ject on traf­fic, ven­ti­la­tion, as well as the avail­abil­ity of parks, schools and hos­pi­tals.

In or­der to con­vince lo­cal res­i­dents to ac­cept a large in­flux of new res­i­dents and more high-rise build­ings near their homes, as a rule of thumb, they have to at least know that their cur­rent liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment and stan­dard of liv­ing would not be ad­versely af­fected. More orig­i­nal think­ing and a stronger gov­ern­ment com­mit­ment is des­per­ately needed to en­hance our city’s plan­ning.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.