The proposed artificial islands off the coast of Lantau Island could start housing people midway through construction – which is expected to be as soon as 2032, says Secretary for Development Michael Wong.
According to the government’s estimates, only 200 out of the roughly 1,000 hectares of proposed reclamation would be complete when the first residents move in, Wong said on Sunday. However, the government did not think that construction work would have a negative effect.
“I don’t think the residents who move in first will feel unhappy, as they will have already expected this,” he said, adding that the flats will fulfil the practical needs of citizens.
Referring to the uninhabited island of Kau Yi Chau, which is near one of the reclamation sites, Wong said, “Kau Yi Chau has an advantage: no matter at what location, there is a good chance that there will be a sea view.”
He added that the district will not become a “low-income neighbourhood” despite the 70 per cent public housing ratio, since there will also be properties targeted at first-time homeowners and other types of subsidised housing.
The reclamation plan dubbed Lantau Tomorrow Vision was first unveiled by Chief Executive Carrie Lam in her Policy Address last October.
It received a more detailed explanation last week, with Wong saying that the islands will cost approximately HK$624 billion – the most expensive infrastructure project in Hong Kong history. The city’s fiscal reserves stood at approximately HK$1.16 trillion at the start of the year.
Over the weekend Wong defended the expense, saying that “the money will come back” via revenue generated from land sales, and rejected the claim that the project will empty government coffers.
The reclaimed Kau Yi Chau could support between 150,000 and 260,000 housing flats, he added, 70 per cent of which will be reserved for public housing.
No knowledge of rail plans
Liber Research Community, a Hong Kong land policy research group, revealed last week that there may be plans for a high-speed rail line included in Lantau Tomorrow Vision.
Researchers spotted a previously unannounced railway line on a “transport system map” displayed at a government exhibition in Qianhai, Shenzhen. The line, marked “high-speed rail extension,” would connect Shenzhen with the artificial islands near Lantau.
“This ‘Express Rail Link 2.0′ has never been mentioned in government documents… and implies that the Lantau Tomorrow Vision is just an economic subsidiary of Qianhai. It suits others’ needs rather than our own,” the group wrote.
Wong said on Saturday that he had no knowledge of any high-speed rail plans related to the artificial islands, and only found out through the news. Instead, the Hong Kong government’s understanding is laid down in the 2014 Railway Development Strategy, which did not include such an extension line.
“The Shenzhen authorities have clarified that the map was just a conceptualisation,” he said on a radio programme. He said he would respect the ideas of the Qianhai government as it is Hong Kong’s “neighbour,” but said it would be difficult to comment on them.
“There has been no formal discussion [of the railway plans] between Hong Kong and Chinese authorities… the Hong Kong government will not necessarily agree to those plans,” he added.
However, Liber researchers wrote in a follow-up post that multiple Shenzhen officials had already mentioned similar plans last month – including Tian Fu, director-general of the administration body of the Qianhai and Shekou pilot free trade zone, as well as Du Peng, director-general of Qianhai’s management authority.