Lantau reclamation project cost seen at HK$624 bln: govt

March 20, 2019 13:25
Development Secretary Michael Wong (2nd from right) and other senior government officials pose for a picture after announcing the cost and other details of key projects under the Lantau Tomorrow Vision plan. Photo: HK Govt

The Lantau reclamation initiative announced by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in her policy address last October is expected to cost nearly US$80 billion, making it the most expensive infrastructure project in Hong Kong's history.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Secretary for Development Michael Wong Wai-lun revealed an initial estimate of HK$624 billion for building artificial islands around Kau Yi Chau and other related works under the so-called Lantau Tomorrow Vision plan.

The announcement came after the government accepted last month all the eight options to boost land supply as suggested by the Task Force on Land Supply, including developing the East Lantau Metropolis as one of the medium- to long-term solutions.

Of the total project amount, the cost for the construction of Kau Yi Chau Artificial Islands, reclamation at Sunny Bay and Lung Kwu Tan, and the Tuen Mun coastal area development is estimated to be HK$351 billion based on prices of September 2018.

The rest, or HK$273 billion, will be spent on building the necessary transport network, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The government aims to begin the first phase of the reclamation, which is building artificial islands near Kau Yi Chau between Hong Kong Island and the main island of Lantau, from 2025.

The project will create 1,000 hectares of land which the government can use to put up new residential units and alleviate the housing problem in the city.

Under the plan, the artificial islands will be able to provide 150,000 to 260,000 flats, 70 percent of which will be public housing, said Wong.

Citing a ballpark estimate from the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors, the official said the government could reap land sale revenue of as much as HK$1.14 trillion from the private residential and commercial developments that will come up on the Kau Yi Chau Artificial Islands. 

The development chief added that the creation of the 1,000-hectare land will enable development of a third core business district for the city, something that could add HK$141 billion per year to the Hong Kong economy, or five percent of the GDP, with about 200,000 jobs to be created.

“The detailed estimate will be subject to coming studies, so it could be revised upwards or downwards,” Wong said.

“We will continue to communicate with the public as to why this is worth our while. This is a good investment, this is good for Hong Kong, this resolves many of our problems,” the development secretary said.

Wong stressed that the government is financially capable of meeting the engineering expenditure worth several dozen billion Hong Kong dollars a year, and also pointed out that the government can  generate income through land sales on the new islands.

Given this, there is no reason to worry that the reclamation project will deplete the government's coffers, he said.

Wong also brushed aside environmentalists' concerns that climate change could lead to flooding on the artificial islands, pointing out that the new islands will be around six to seven meters above sea level, RTHK reported.

Meanwhile, he stressed that the project should not be viewed in purely money terms, but seen instead as an initiative that will serve the society’s needs.

He added the creation of the 1000-hectare land can improve the residential density in some old areas in urban districts, enabling people to live in bigger space and ease traffic load in northwest New Territories.

Meanwhile, Lam told media on Tuesday that reclamation will definitely yield good returns.

Claiming that the project has won wide support from the general public, the chief executive said she hopes related studies can begin as soon as possible.

The Development Bureau has submitted a document to the Legislative Council’s Panel on Development for discussions.

The bureau plans to propose next Tuesday to the committee launch of studies in relation to artificial islands, setting up a Lantau preservation fund of HK$1 billion, apart from giving a briefing on the work progress of the Sustainable Lantau Office.

As for the second phase, which involves reclamation of about 700 hectares of land around Hei Ling Chau, Wong said the government has no time table for that as of now.

Speaking on a radio program Wednesday morning, Wong said errors in both upper and lower limits are not set in the ballpark estimate for the first phase of the project.

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