Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said reclamation is inevitable to boost land supply for housing, highlighting her resolve to pursue her “Lantau Tomorrow Vision” despite widespread opposition to her proposal.
Speaking to reporters before attending a regular Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Lam said the average waiting time for those waiting for public housing has further lengthened to 5.5 years, and as such, the government must take action in a responsible way, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The Task Force on Land Supply, an expert panel formed by Lam last year to come up with suggestions on how to boost land supply for housing, has set three principles to resolve the problem－finding land sooner rather than later, adopting a multi-pronged approach and making preparations ahead.
In order to meet the three requirements, reclamation is unavoidable, Lam said.
The Hong Kong leader’s comments came after several recent polls showed that there was more opposition than support for her reclamation proposal.
The latest one conducted by the Public Opinion Programme of the University of Hong Kong (HKUPOP) in early November found that 49 percent of 1,000 respondents objected to the plan, while only 39 percent expressed their support.
Under the “Lantau Tomorrow Vision”, which she unveiled in her policy address last month, artificial islands will be created in the seas surrounding Lantau through large-scale reclamation with the goal of providing housing to as many as 1.1 million people.
Commenting on the latest HKUPOP survey, Lam said society’s responses to her land supply proposal have been diverse, adding that the results of the poll could have been affected by how questions were posed to the respondents.
If the interviewees were asked whether they agree that the government should give priority to the development of brownfield sites over reclamation, then they would definitely answer “yes”, Lam said.
The public’s overall view on land supply would be known after the expert panel submitted its final report by the end of the year, she added.
Lam stressed that the government is not aiming to start reclamation work in the near term, noting that statutory consultation is required, but is only planning in advance.
Her comments did not sit well with some lawmakers, however.
Andrew Wan Siu-kin from the Democratic Party called her remarks illogical and deceitful. He said Lam should not use the average waiting time for public housing to justice her Lantau reclamation plan, whose construction will take at least 10 years, which means that those currently waiting will have already been accommodated by then.
Wan also slammed the chief executive for using the lack of social consensus as an excuse to push her plan despite clear public opposition.
He said studying the development of brownfields and the Fanling golf course to increase land supply should be given priority.
Lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching, convener of the pan-democrats’ meeting group of lawmakers, called Lam’s attack on private polls hard to understand and unfair.
It is self-contradictory because while Lam claims that land shortage is a pressing issue, her reclamation plan may well take much longer than developing brownfields, and not the other way around as she has suggested, Mo said.
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