Ar­chi­tect urges govt to ac­cept rec­om­men­da­tions by task force

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - TOP NEWS - By JOSEPH LI in Hong Kong [email protected]­nadai­lyhk.com

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.

EDMOND TANG / CHINA DAILY

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