Architect urges govt to accept recommendations by task force
The Task Force on Land Supply, in its report to the Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on the last day of 2018, proposed a multi-pronged approach to increase land supply. It recommended eight options after initially proposing 18 based on a degree of public support.
“We hope the government will accept the task force’s majority recommendations or even the entire report,” task force member Vincent Ng Wing-shun told China Daily.
The “3+5” options include three short to mid-term options — development of brownfield sites, development of private agricultural land in the New Territories and use of sites under private leases — with recovery of a golf range in Fanling being the main focus.
Among the five mid to long-term options was near-shore reclamation outside the Victoria Harbour, the East Lantau Metropolis reclamation of 1,000 hectares, and opening up more areas for new development in the New Territories.
Ng said the task force was appointed by the government with a view to seeking public views and forging consensus on ways to increase land supply by way of bottom-up — public engagement consultations.
“I am familiar with this type of public consultation style as I was involved in a number of projects such as the urban renewal strategy, Kai Tak Development — which were successful under Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor when she was secretary for development,” he said.
“If the government does not accept our report, it will be hard to find people to work for it. The task force was appointed by the government and it comprises many professionals and academics who worked without pay and had no vested interests. In fact, if the government wants to do something or not, it can decide without a task force,” he added.
The chief executive explained on Tuesday that a responsible government made decisions based on a holistic approach. She said it may not be responsible to accept all the recommendations.
Many people argue that the task force’s chairman, Stanley Wong Yuen-fai, could become another Nelson Chow Wing-sun — the academic whose retirement protection proposal was not accepted by Carrie Lam when she was chief secretary for administration.
Ng, who has maintained reasonable working relations with Lam for many years, is not too upset about her latest remarks. “She has not said she will not accept our full report. I think she is only buying time to wait for another report on the review of private recreation leases,” he said.
Among other things, the task force proposes a partial recovery of 32 hectares of the Fanling gold course. This could happen as early as in August 2020 when the current lease expires. Although there are tombs and old trees in the vicinity, Ng believes good planning will not affect things that need to be preserved.
It is estimated that 17,000 housing units could be provided if the whole golf course is relocated. In the short to mid-term, about 4,600 units could be provided.
Ng is slightly regretful that the government only unveiled the Lantau Tomorrow Vision reclamation plan of 1,700 hectares in the Policy Address after the task force consulted the public on 1,000 hectares of reclamation. Ng said he found it very hard to say the two plans are the same because people were not asked their views about the size of 1,700 hectares.
Ng believes it is rather difficult to develop brownfield sites because the government does not know their total area or their locations.
“It is also difficult because brownfield sites are neither idle nor government sites. If the sites are being used, the government needs to recover, relocate and even compensate the occupiers and owners,” he explained.
Some critics blamed the task force for not prioritizing the different options or showing their importance. Ng responded that the task force did not use this style when presenting their findings. But people can discover the degree of public support for each option from the report, he said.
“There is no use prioritizing. As some people have only one thing in their minds, they will blame us and accuse us of twisting public opinion… This is not a report to please everybody but we do not want to create any disputes,” he said.
Ng wants the government to move quickly to resolve land and housing shortages — whether or not it accepts all the recommendations of their report.
In the first place, the government needs to do technical studies, especially on the environment and marine ecology, before determining the scale of financial resources required.
“Land and housing shortages have become very severe and the government can’t wait any longer and should not be afraid when there are dissenting voices. Strike when the iron is hot!” he said.
Ng warned if the plans are delayed for a year, there will be more and more people opposing reclamation.