24 February 2019
The Fanling Golf Course occupies an area equivalent to nine times the size of Victoria Park in Causeway Bay. Photo: HKEJ
The Fanling Golf Course occupies an area equivalent to nine times the size of Victoria Park in Causeway Bay. Photo: HKEJ

What govt needs to do on Fanling Golf Course land issue

The Task Force on Land Supply met on Tuesday this week to discuss various government proposals on tapping into the land occupied by the Fanling Golf Course and putting it to use for housing projects or other purposes.

The administration has put forward two proposals, which are: 1. a “Partial Development Option”, attempting to strike a balance between housing development and retaining the function of the golf course in organizing international tournaments; 2. “Full Development Option”, under which the whole golf course be used for development. Under this option, relevant considerations would include whether the golf course should be reprovisioned.

The task force is going to launch a public consultation campaign over the two proposals next month.

Over the years, the Fanling Golf Course, a facility of the Hong Kong Golf Club, has created an impression among the public that it is just “a fun place for the wealthy”.

The label is not without basis. The club only has some 2,600 members at the Fanling Golf Course, with the joining fee for individual membership in the range of HK$200,000 and HK$300,000, and that for corporate membership a whopping HK$17 million.

Yet all the club needs to pay for the government to rent the 172 hectares of land is a symbolic HK$1,000 per year.

As Hong Kong has been facing an acute shortage of land for housing development in recent years, there have been mounting calls among the public for the government to claim back the whole or at least part of the golf course, whose land lease is due to expire in 2020.

In our opinion, in order to strike a reasonable balance among the various stakeholders, perhaps it would be a good idea for the administration to steer a middle course by taking back only part of the land in the Fanling Golf Course.

At present, the Fanling facility has three 18-hole golf courses. We suggest that the government claim back one of them. Such move will ensure that the retrieved land can be used to build new homes, while also leaving the club with sizable property where it can provide golfing opportunities and host sports tournaments.

Even though taking back a few dozen hectares of land in the Fanling Golf Course may be a drop in the ocean amid our current land shortage crisis, at least it can facilitate further efforts at exploring new land options and break the current stalemate in the government’s initiatives to find new land.

In other words, we are in favor of a win-win proposal under which new land for homes and the Fanling Golf Course can co-exist.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 5

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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