Task force head urges prompt govt response to land supply report

January 07, 2019 14:53
Stanley Wong (center), chairman of the Task Force on Land Supply, guests on RTHK's City Forum on Sunday. Photo: RTHK

The chairman of a task force formed by the government to identify land supply options for housing expects the administration to come out soon with its response to the suggestions listed in its report.

Stanley Wong Yuen-fai, who chairs the Task Force on Land Supply, told reporters after attending RTHK's City Forum on Sunday that since his panel has completed its mission and submitted a final report at the end of last year as scheduled, he hopes to see the government's response by the end of February when its term ends, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Earlier in the day, Wong told a TVB program that his panel had conducted an extensive public consultation on how to increase land supply for Hong Kong before coming up with its report, and as such, there is no need for the government to seek opinions from district councils before pursuing the suggested options, although dealing with objections adequately may be required.

Wong, a veteran banker and a member of the Housing Authority, said that while he understands it takes time to scrutinize the report, he would like to see the government give an initial response – for instance, which of the options will it implement.

Hopefully, preliminary studies for some of the options can begin by the end of this year, he added.

In the report it submitted on Dec. 31, the 30-member panel said eight options should be given priority based on the feedback from the public during its five-month public engagement exercise between April 26 and Sept. 26.

Three of these are short- to medium-term options: developing brownfield sites, 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; tapping into private agricultural land reserve in the New Territories; and alternative uses of sites under private recreational leases, including the Fanling Golf Course.

The other five, suggested as medium- to long-term solutions, include near-shore reclamation outside Victoria Harbour, developing the East Lantau Metropolis, development of rock caverns and underground spaces, creation of more development areas in the New Territories, and redevelopment of the River Trade Terminal in Tuen Mun.

The task force estimated that all of the options, if implemented, can provide a combined 3,235 hectares or more for residential development.

Wong has been saying that he believes the government will not selectively adopt the suggested options.

On Sunday, he said none of the options should be forsaken unless there are very good reasons because the report was formed on the basis of extensive public participation and integrated with land supply strategies.

The government needs to devise a mechanism for execution of the options so that there will be no need to form another task force to tackle the problem of land shortage in the future, Wong said.

The recommendation concerning the redevelopment of the Fanling Golf Course for housing has drawn strong opposition from certain quarters, with some saying that doing so would affect the normal practice of negotiating business through golfing and even cause international companies to refrain from setting up headquarters in Hong Kong.

Wong told a radio program on Saturday that such arguments were somewhat exaggerated since partial development of the golf course will not prevent the hosting of open golfing tournaments at the site. 

Chan Kim-ching, a research member of the Liber Research Community, said there might be a discrepancy between the report's recommendations and the views of the public.

In a survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong, over 60 percent of the respondents supported the use of the Land Resumption Ordinance to acquire private property, but the report still recommended achieving the purpose through public-private partnership, which received less support, Chan said, citing the survey results which showed a 64-11 percent ratio for the two respective options.

Ng Mee-kam, a professor from the Department of Geography and Resource Management of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, called on the government to first develop brownfield sites and new development areas and heed the voices of people aged 40 and below, many of whom oppose the idea of reclamation. 

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor told a television interview on Sunday that the housing issue is the greatest challenge for her administration, claiming that she is very willing to adjust the public-private housing split, which is 60:40 currently, and to have the prices of subsidized housing totally delinked from market prices.

– Contact us at [email protected]