Pan-dems fail in bid to stall Lantau land reclamation plan

October 24, 2018 12:49
Pan-democrat lawmakers failed to get their motions passed at a Legco committee meeting on Tuesday despite growing public doubts over the government's large-scale Lantau land reclamation plan. Photo: Bloomberg

Pan-democratic lawmakers on Tuesday moved two motions at a Legco panel meeting calling for a halt to the government's controversial Lantau land reclamation plan, but were voted down by the establishment camp.  

At a meeting held by the Legislative Council’s Panel on Development to discuss the policy address of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, two motions were moved for the “Lantau Tomorrow Vision” plan to be put on ice, only to see them get rejected. 

The motions were lodged by Andrew Wan Siu-kin from the Democratic Party and Eddie Chu Hoi-dick from the Land Justice League, but neither of them gained enough support and ended up being vetoed, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Lam, during her policy speech on Oct. 10, outlined plans to build artificial islands in the seas surrounding Lantau, arguing that the move will help alleviate Hong Kong's land shortage problem and housing woes.

As per the proposal dubbed "Lantau Tomorrow Vision", as much as 1,700 hectares of land can be created through reclamation in the seas off Lantau which can be put to use for housing.

The large-scale reclamation plan has stirred fierce debate among Hongkongers, with many people and opposition parties questioning the project on economic and environmental grounds. 

During the meeting Tuesday, lawmaker Wan pointed out the Task Force on Land Supply, appointed by Lam last year to come up with suggestions to help resolve Hong Kong’s housing problem, has just completed a five-month public engagement exercise to collect opinions on land supply options.

Since the committee is set to submit a report of its observations on the public opinions by the end of the year, proposing the mega reclamation plan now amounts to treating the panel as a joke, Wan said.

Moreover, Wan said, it is a breach of procedural justice as the panel had put in a suggestion for reclaiming only 1,000 hectares of land as an option, but Lam's plan now expands the figure to 1,700 hectares without consulting the public.

The Democratic Party legislator also added that the chief executive's latest plan is not convincing as it lacks details.

In response to Wan’s questioning, Secretary for Development Michael Wong Wai-lun promised that authorities will definitely take reference from the panel’s report.

Wong argued that the first phase of the “Lantau Tomorrow Vision”, which involves reclamation of 1,000 hectares of land at Kau Yi Chau situated between Hong Kong Island and the main island of Lantau, is consistent with the option proposed by the panel. .

Calling the mega reclamation plan more expensive and riskier than all the other land supply options, Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki said development of brownfields, which refer to land that has been zoned for industrial or commercial use but is now mainly used for other purposes such as storage dumps, as well as agricultural farmlands is sufficient enough to meet land demands estimated by the panel.

Wong disagreed by saying that although assessment information shows Hong Kong still has a shortage of about 1 million units of housing, the government expects to be able to provide more than 600,000 units by infill developments or increasing the building density.

However, Wong noted that the amount of land the administration has sold in recent years and the number of flats built had failed to match initial expectations.

According to Wong, New Territories North can provide about 85,000 residential units and Kau Yi Cha about 150,000 units. The combined figure is still below than the government’s goal, which is set at 300,000 units, he said.

While admitting that the Lantau reclamation plan is not the only alternative when it comes to land supply, reclamation at Kau Yi Chau is the best one, the official said, while stressing that it is not a long-term solution to keep offering new housing in the New Territories.

In a motion that was passed at the meeting, Lawmaker and Executive Councilor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who is the chairwoman of the New People’s Party, urged the government to put a priority on development of public rental housing when implementing the Land Sharing Pilot Scheme.

The will be of help to the people living in sub-divided flats, Ip said, while adding that she is against inclusion of newly added floor areas in the scheme designed for local first-time homebuyers. 

– Contact us at [email protected]