Political parties and green groups have slammed the government’s land consultation – launched today – as being biased in favour of working with developers rather than taking back brownfield sites for development.

The government Task Force on Land Supply launched a five-month consultation based on the premise that Hong Kong is in need of more than 1,200 hectares of land – the equivalent of 60 Victoria Parks.

Stanley Wong, chair of the task force, said the group did not take in the public’s wish to live in a bigger space and the need for more healthcare facilities owing to the aging population while calculating the shortage.

Brownfield site in Wang Toi Shan, June 2017. Photo: Liber Research Community.

The task force said 815 hectares of the total 1,200 will be urgently needed within eight years. The consultation provided 18 options. Four of these aim to provide land for the short to medium term – within ten years. One option is to develop 1,300 hectares of brownfield sites – farmland polluted by industrial activities – and another is to develop more than 1,000 hectares of private farmland reserve in the New Territories.

The other two short to medium term options include developing 408 hectares of private recreational land – such as the Fanling golf course – and relocating or combining 95 recreational facilities which take up a large area of land.

“Hong Kong’s problem of land and housing is imminent – we have no time to waste. To solve the shortage of land and housing, the best way is to steadily and stably increase land supply. There is no single solution that can solve everything – it is obvious that we have to use multiple means,” said Wong.

Stanley Wong
Stanley Wong (right). Photo: GovHK.

“All proposals will affect stakeholders in different ways, no option is painless. It is difficult to find a balance, but we have to be courageous and make decisions.”

The consultation also provided medium to long term options that can be completed within ten to 30 years. These include reclamation of Victoria Harbour, development of the East Lantau Metropolis, developing caverns and underground space, developing areas in the New Territories, developing the River Trade Terminal in Tuen Mun, and developing two trial sites on the periphery of country parks in Tai Lam and Shui Chuen O.

Kwai Tsing Container Terminals
Kwai Tsing Container Terminals. Baycrest – Wikipedia user – CC-BY-SA-2.5

The eight other options were conceptual proposals. They include developing other sites on the periphery of country parks, increasing the development density of village sites, building on top of existing transport facilities including the Kwai Tsing Container Terminals, and using part of the Plover Cove Reservoir.

“We will listen to all stakeholders, the more the better, so that it will not be a certain group of stakeholders occupying all the air space on one option,” Wong said.

The option of using idle military land was not included in the consultation.

Wong said the task force found that all of the military land is currently being used for defence and the government has no intention of changing the land’s usage.

Task Force on Land Supply
Task Force on Land Supply. Photo: GovHK.

Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan said in response that the options were mostly intended for long term development and does not alleviate the current shortage.

He said the government should take back the Fanling golf course, whose lease ends in 2020. The site can provide around 100,000 flats, he said.

Wan also criticised the consultation for giving too much focus to the development of New Territories farmlands using public-private partnerships, and questioned whether the consultation was biased towards that option.

“Using the Lands Resumption Ordinance to take back developers’ farmland for public housing is a legitimate option that is in line with the principle of public usage. I hope the task force will introduce different options to residents fairly in future consultation work,” Wan said.

fanling golf course
Fanling golf course. Photo: Citizen News.

Greenpeace campaigner Andy Chu said that the task force was “hard-selling” options that would destroy more land.

“The public housing demand in the next ten years can be satisfied by developing brownfield sites and the Fanling golf course,” he said. “Country parks are places for residents – including those living in subdivided flats and grassroots – to breathe fresh air, [developing them] does not solve the problem.”

Chu said the government has not met any legal challenges in taking back brownfield sites using legal means in the past.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.