17 July 2019
The government’s land supply panel has launched an online survey as part of a five-month public engagement exercise on ways to create new sites for housing development. Photo: HK Govt
The government’s land supply panel has launched an online survey as part of a five-month public engagement exercise on ways to create new sites for housing development. Photo: HK Govt

Online survey seeks public opinions on land supply options

The Task Force on Land Supply, a panel appointed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor last year to come up with suggestions to help resolve Hong Kong’s housing woes, has launched an online survey as it seeks more inputs from the public on ways to create new development sites. 

The online survey was kicked off on Thursday as part of the 30-member task force’s five-month public engagement exercise, which began on April 26 and will last until September 26, on the best possible options to boost land supply to alleviate the housing problem.

The survey provides a total of 22 options, including short-to-medium term and medium-to-long term as well as some conceptual options, for the public to choose from, identifying their preferences as to how the government should find more land for housing. 

They proposals include near-shore reclamation outside Victoria Harbour, developing two pilot areas on the periphery of country parks, and reclaiming part of Plover Cove Reservoir, among other options, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The move came after the task force, which began operations on September 1 to explore different options and priorities regarding land supply as well as to engage the community in related discussions to build consensus for further consideration by the government, had conducted six roving exhibitions for the purpose of public consultation.

About 1,000 completed paper questionnaires were collected from those efforts.

Professor John Bacon-Shone from the University of Hong Kong, who is in charge of the new online survey, said filled questionnaires that come from the same IP address within a short period of time and express the same opinions will be handled appropriately so as to prevent people or organizations from trying to intentionally “manufacture the will of the people”.

That said, the academic, who is the director of Social Sciences Research Centre at HKU, admitted that there is no foolproof method to thwart such attempts.

Under the design of the online survey, participants have to watch a five-minute video clip before starting to fill in the questionnaire. They can only skip the clip after spending at least one minute watching it.

Stanley Wong Yuen-fai, who chairs the task force, had claimed Hong Kong needs at least 1,200 hectares more land to meet the housing needs of the public, based on data provided by “Hong Kong 2030+: Towards a Planning Vision and Strategy Transcending 2030”, a comprehensive study undertaken by the government in relation to the city’s development needs.

As such, participants of the online survey will see a reminder pop out on the screen if the land-supply options checked by them provide a combined area that is less than 1,200 hectares, although they can still choose to ignore it and submit the questionnaire, which takes a few minutes to finish.

Not long after the online survey was launched, several green groups, including Green Sense and Greenpeace, issued a joint statement in which they criticized the poll for keeping reminding participants of choosing at least 1,200 hectares but failing to ask if they agree with the number that is only an assumption.

The statement also noted that a number of options are described as being only able to release 15 or 30 percent of the land area, as a rough basis of estimation adopted, because detailed estimation on the land area cannot be made for those options.

The same facility, however, is not there when it comes to the option of reclamation of land from the sea, which is described as providing an estimated area of land, instead of a percentage of land area.

That prompts the groups to believe that authorities are trying to “lead” participants to vote in favor of the reclamation option, the statement said.

Wong, on his part, refuted the accusation that the questionnaire is misleading, saying all the data in it is based on actual calculations.

In addition to the online survey, the task force is also planning to conduct a phone survey starting in August, with an aim to collect feedback from 3,000 members of the public.

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