Seventeen environmental groups on Thursday jointly expressed their objection to the idea of developing residential estates on the fringes of country parks, saying such plan amounts to ignoring the law.
At a press conference, the groups argued that developing the peripheral of country parks would mark defiance of the law currently in place to protect such facilities, namely the Country Parks Ordinance.
They also slammed a government consultation exercise on the matter, calling it a de facto development study rather than just opinion gathering, thus creating a pre-condition in the consultation, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
In May last year, former chief executive Leung Chun-ying commissioned the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) to conduct a feasibility study on housing development, for example, public housing and non-profit-making elderly housing, in Tai Lam near the Tai Lam Country Park, and Shui Chuen O close to the Ma On Shan Country Park.
After hiring a consultant for a feasibility study in April this year, the HKHS invited green groups to participate in a consultation meeting on Wednesday, hoping to gather their opinions.
However, not a single representative from the groups showed up at the meeting, apparently because they wanted to avoid lending legitimacy to the consultation.
The consultation came at a time when the Task Force on Land Supply, a panel appointed last year by Hong Kong’s current leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to come up with suggestions to help resolve the city’s housing woes, is seeking inputs from the public on ways to create new development sites.
As such, green groups said it is not proper for the HKHS to launch a consultation at the moment since it would easily make the public feel that the government has made up its mind to go ahead with the controversial plan.
Woo Ming-chuan, a senior conservation officer at the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, said the word “periphery” is misleading as the ordinance does not specify which part of country parks is classified as a periphery, expressing his concern that the core of the park may also one day become periphery and lead to irreversible effects.
Dr. Cheng Luk-ki, director of Green Power, pointed out the fact that the ordinance does not explicitly or implicitly say building residential homes on the land of country parks is doable means the government should not defy it by commissioning a feasibility study in the first place.
Greenpeace campaigner Andy Chu Kong urged the government to focus on the so-called brownfield sites in order to unlock more land for public homes as such sites, which are mostly in the New Territories and serving as open storage facilities, recycling yards, and car-repair workshops, account for a combined area of as much a 700 hectares.
Chu urged the government not to force people to choose between housing and country parks.
In response, the HKHS said Wednesday’s consultation meeting was to seek green groups’ comments on the ecological survey methodology, as it is drafting methodology and proposal on public participation in consultation. Therefore, it took the initiative in setting up appointment with the green groups to conduct the non-official consultation.
The HKHS stressed it has no pre-set position and that its study only aims to provide objective information that can be used as basis for future discussions in society.
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