Former chief executive Tung Chee- hwa’s think tank yesterday proposed massive reclamation of almost 3,500 hectares of land to solve Hong Kong’s land shortage problem.
But activists said the think tank downplayed development of brownfield sites for an “irreversible option” of last resort that would devastate the environment.
Our Hong Kong Foundation proposed building a “new rose garden” on artificial islands created in several areas, including south of Cheung Chau, Po Toi Island, Tuen Mun, Tseung Kwan O and West Lamma.
The group also wants to relocate Kwai Chung Container Terminals and prison facilities to new artificial islands to make way for more residential development.
The study on land and housing, released yesterday, concluded that a “more ambitious plan” of land creation is needed to support the city’s long-term development.
It also asked the government to work with private landowners to increase housing supply.
The think tank reckoned total land demand will be over 9,000 hectares in the next three decades as it estimated 1.26 million flats will be needed, which was more than the government’s projection of 1 million flats on 4,800 hectares.
The report highlighted central waters between Hong Kong Island and Lantau which it says it have a “relatively low ecological value.”
It proposes building a mega- artificial island of 2,200 hectares south of Cheung Chau for relocation of existing logistics services at Kwai Chung Container Terminals and brownfield sites and freeing up 940 hectares for residential use.
“[The Kwai Chung area] is situated in the urban area with existing well- developed infrastructure support,” the report explained.
Meanwhile, prisons and other government facilities could be moved to 200 hectares of reclaimed land near Po Toi Island.
Reclaimed waters covering 50 hectares near West Lamma could see low-density residential development, while 390 hectares in Tuen Mun and 200 hectares in Tseung Kwan O could be expanded for new industrial and residential development.
The five areas sketched out in the preliminary concept map, which add up to 3,490 hectares, were selected from the 25 potential reclamation sites originally proposed by the government in 2012. The group also advocated public- private partnerships to optimize private land reserves as short-term fixes.
Its head of public policy, Stephen Wong Yuen-shan, said the lack of infrastructure, town planning processes and determination of land premium made these sites in the New Territories hard to develop.
“The government needs to offer developers incentives, like providing more infrastructure,” Wong said.
He added that certain portions of private land have to be used for development of subsidized-sale flats and public housing.
But green groups believed the think tank got it wrong, saying the core problem lay in the government’s population policies.
Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society chairman Samuel Hung Ka-yiu said: “It is irresponsible to go straight to the last resort.”
Noting that Hong Kong has lots of unused land, Hung said: “You should never reclaim land unless it is fully justifiable. That is meant to be a last resort.”
He also condemned the think tank for “over-exaggerating” the necessity of reclamation without fully exploring existing land.
Echoing Wong, Green Sense chief executive Roy Tam Hoi-pong said the city cannot reclaim land “bottomlessly.”
“It is a devastating proposal to the environment,” Tam said. “The cost would also be staggering.”
Wong insisted it would be a worthy investment.
“It has to be decided collectively by society. If we turned the proposal down without even talking through it, we may miss opportunities to improve society and Hongkongers’ livelihood.”