The administration is inclined to accept all the eight options to boost land supply as suggested by an expert panel, including the controversial conversion of a golf course, government sources said.
During its weekly meeting on Tuesday, according to the sources, the Executive Council decided to fully endorse the eight options proposed by the Task Force on Land Supply, which estimated that they can together add a combined 3,235 hectares of land, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The task force, which was appointed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor last year to come up with suggestions on how to boost land supply in order to address Hong Kong’s housing woes, listed the options in the final report it submitted to the government at the end of 2018 after conducting a five-month public consultation between April 26 and Sept. 26 last year.
The three short- to medium-term options are developing brownfield sites, tapping into private agricultural land reserve in the New Territories and exploring alternative uses of sites under private recreational leases, including a 32-hectare portion of the Fanling Golf Course.
The other five, suggested as medium- to long-term solutions, were near-shore reclamation outside Victoria Harbour, developing the East Lantau metropolis, developing caverns and underground space, new development areas in the New Territories and developing the River Trade Terminal site in Tuen Mun.
The sources said all members of the Executive Council agreed at Tuesday’s meeting that none of the options should be given up, although those who hold membership of the Fanling Golf Course excused themselves while its proposed development was being discussed.
Stanley Wong Yuen-fai, chairman of the 30-member expert panel, said last month he hoped to hear the government’s response to the task force’s final report by the end of February when its term ends.
The Development Bureau will hold a press conference at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday to respond to the report submitted by the task force.
Wong told media that it would be the best result if the government accepted the entire report.
Task force vice chairman Greg Wong Chak-yan also hoped the administration and Exco would accept the whole report.
Otherwise, he said, the task force would look like the team of Professor Nelson Chow Wing-sun, emeritus professor of social work and social administration at the University of Hong Kong, who had been invited by Lam, then the chief secretary, to conduct a study on universal retirement scheme a few years ago, but whose report was rejected outright by the administration.
Lam said in January that the government would study the recommendations made by the task force in detail and in a comprehensive manner, while considering the interests of the entire society, adding that full acceptance of experts’ opinions might not be a responsible act.
Danny Lai Yee-june, chief executive of the Hong Kong Golf Association, told HKEJ that he will not make any comment until he hears the government’s formal announcement of its decision.
Hong Kong Alliance of Golfers convener Kenneth Lau Ka-lok also said he would refrain, for the time being, from commenting on speculations, although he said his group remains opposed to any effort to take back the golf course.
An unnamed member of the task force admitted that it would be surprising if the government ends up acccepting all the eight options as it appears that it wants to preserve the status quo at the Fanling Golf Course.
Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin, who is deputy chairman of the Legislative Council’s housing panel, said he is disappointed that the government is taking back only a part of the Fanling Golf Course but not the entire area.
Wan said the government should be ashamed if “it treats citizens in such a manner, giving them only 32 hectares, while giving the wealthy and powerful 140 hectares”.
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