Expanding Land Resources in Hong Kong

Speech of the Hon KP Chan on Member’s Motion on Expanding Land Resources at the Legislative Council on 29 February 2012 (Synopsis)

• Supply of land for residential and commercial uses has been insufficient in recent years, leading to surge in property prices that has an adverse impact on the economy. According to official forecast, population would reach 8.9 million by 2039. As the economy would grow in tandem, Hong Kong would need 4,500 hectares more land to satisfy demand.

• In order to satisfy land demand for development, the Government is conducting a comprehensive review of land use and undertaking to explore land resources with innovative ideas. Lately, the Government is consulting the public on strategies on optimizing land supply. Six means are put forward for consideration, including rezoning, redevelopment, repossession, reclamation, developing caves and rejuvenating quarries.

• These six means have their merits and limitations. Public views are mixed. Reclamation, repossession and rezoning are particularly controversial. In my view, any means of development is worth considering as long as environmental protection and conservation are not compromised. A multi-modal approach should be used to ensure stable land supply.

• Reclamation outside Victoria Harbour is the focus of this public consultation and it is also the most controversial. Statistics shows that the area of Singapore has increased by 13,700 hectares or 26 percent over the last 30 years through reclamation. The area of Macao is almost 3,000 hectares, as compared to 1,100 hectares at the turn of 20th Century. About two-third has come from reclamation. In contrast, the area of Hong Kong has only increased by 6,824 hectares or 6 percent through reclamation since 1841. It is a misconception that Hong Kong has been relying on reclamation for additional land.

• Comparing with other means, reclamation has its advantages. For instance, land supply is more manageable and construction wastes may be disposed of more productively. Moreover, reclaimed land would form new communities as their layouts are much less restrictive. The downside of reclamation is adverse impacts on the environment and this is the common cause for objection. Conservation does matter but the 25 proposed locations are outside Victoria Harbour and not all of them necessarily adversely affect the environment. I ask the public to be pragmatic and not to object indiscriminately. As long as the environment and conservation are adequately considered, reclamation at suitable sites should not be objected.

• Other controversial means are rezoning and repossession because they might involve village environ and farmland. According to updated official figures, residential land accounts for 7 percent, commercial land for 3 percent, agriculture and fishery land for 6 percent and woodland and greens for 66 percent of the territory. There is more land for development than generally perceived.

• The transportation network of New Territories Northwest is being developed and will be complemented by the Hong Kong/Zhuhai/Macao Bridge under construction. There are plenty unused land, fallowed farmland and greenbelt for redevelopment. The Government may pick those more suitable and less intrusive for rezoning. It would not only release more land for redevelopment but also reduce the pressure of reclamation.

• Some learned Members worry that redevelopment of fallowed farmland and greenbelt would provoke unauthorized destruction, particularly in pursuit of residential development. Admittedly, malpractice is unavoidable, but proper redevelopment should not be frustrated. As long as there are proper planning and effective law enforcement, the problem of malpractice would not be irresolvable.

• Other learned Members propose on redevelopment of restricted area along the border. I shall not repeat its merits but would like to stress the value of industrial land use at the locality. It would help develop high value-added industries and add another path of growth to the economy. It would also help develop a platform for increasing exchange and convergence between Guangdong and Hong Kong. In view of multiple benefits, it deserves serious consideration of the Government.

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