Reclamation ‘the only way to form land’, HK leader Carrie Lam says, defending HK$500 billion ‘Lantau Tomorrow Vision’ plan

13-Oct-2018 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s leader has said other land supply options would be “equally difficult, expensive and complicated”, as she continued to defend her controversial HK$500 billion (US$63.8 billion) plan to create a new metropolis on reclaimed land east of Lantau.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said reclamation was “the only way to form land” and Hong Kong needed to follow Singapore and Macau’s examples in doing so.

Speaking on a radio programme on Friday, Lam further defended her “Lantau Tomorrow Vision” proposal that she unveiled in her second policy address on Wednesday to house up to 1.1 million people on the 1,700 hectare site in the next two to three decades.

She said the government had almost run out of options for near-shore reclamation, while acquiring farmland or developing brownfield sites degraded agricultural land occupied by businesses like car parks or recycling yards would also be costly.

The mega reclamation project, a showpiece in Lam’s blueprint, has been heavily criticised over its cost half the city’s fiscal reserves and its environmental impact, with opponents saying it is too time-consuming a solution for the city’s housing crisis.

Asked if she would reconsider the plan, Lam said: “Reclamation to create new land for Hong Kong is unavoidable.”

“I’m not saying that we will go for reclamation and not do all the other things … We are developing brownfield sites, although it’s equally difficult, expensive and very complicated. We are also taking measures to unlock private landowners’ land,” she added.

Lam said that while her critics might suggest that it would be “very easy” to develop brownfield sites and rural areas, “there is also a very big cost to doing that sort of thing”.

“We would have to pay a high price for agricultural land [if it was for] development into housing and commercial use,” she said.

“We have been upping the package for rehousing and compensation … I’ve lost count of how many times we have improved the package.”

Lam said the government’s latest offer to village residents was “so generous they could go into public rental housing or buy a subsidised flat without going through any means testing”.

In May, Secretary for Development Michael Wong Wai-lun estimated that up to HK$550 million of Hong Kong taxpayers’ money would be spent in the next two decades on more generous rehousing and compensation terms for northern New Territories villagers forced to make way for new town developments.

Removing businesses on brownfield sites and relocating affected residents also required land, officials said earlier.

Asked whether Hong Kong’s housing shortage had prompted her to come up with Lantau Tomorrow Vision, Lam said: “That is the only way to form land the other is just changing the use of land.”

Lam conceded that in the last four or five years, officials had upset a lot of people through land rezoning, such as turning land designed for open space into homes.

As for reclamation at other locations, the chief executive said she had limited options.

“You look at Ma Liu Shui reclamation, which has attracted intense criticism and objections,” she said.

The government had also proposed reclamation at Lung Kwu Tan and Sunny Bay, but those sites would not be used for residential developments.

“I just cannot find any more [options] near shore … so where is the land?”

Lam said that as chief executive, she must find a way for Hong Kong to increase land supply.

“Whether we want to have a more sustainable and assured supply of land is an issue that … the chief executive cannot shirk responsibility for,” she said.


Category: Hong Kong

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