Editorial﹕Producing land for putting up housing: time is of the essence

【明報專訊】SOLVING the shortage problem of land supply is the shared wish of citizens as a new year begins. On the eve of the new year, the Task Force on Land Supply submitted its final report to the government, recommending that the government exercise eight options prior to others.

Having collected nearly 30,000 questionnaires and carried out a survey among a random sample of 3,000 citizens, the Task Force has come up with three short- and medium-term and five medium- and long-term options, to which the Task Force recommends that the government give precedence. The three short- and medium-term options include the development of brownfield sites and privately owned agricultural land in the New Territories, and the requisition of land on Private Recreational Leases including that occupied by the Fanling Golf Course. The five medium- and long-term options include the exploration of more new development regions, near-shore land reclamation from the sea excluding Victoria Harbour, and the development of the 1000-hectare East Lantau Metropolis on an artificial island. According to a CUHK survey among a random sample commissioned by the Task Force, these options are all supported by more than 60% of citizens. All sectors should recognise them as the views of mainstream society.

To create land, the government must adopt a multi-pronged approach rather than rely on a handful of options. The fact that the Task Force recommends giving priority to eight options does not mean that the other options should be discarded. Of the eighteen land options, the Task Force has only rejected land reclamation from Plover Cove Reservoir. The Task Force predicts that through the eight priority options around 3,000 hectares of land can be supplied. Much of this, however, will not be available in the short term. Regarding the three short- and medium-term options, the Task Force predicts that 15% of such land can be developed over the next eight years, which will amount to 300 hectares of land or so. Given the fact that by 2026 Hong Kong will be in want of 800 hectares of land, in the short term more than 400 hectares will be lacking. Some people think that the "15%" level is too low. The Task Force's suggestion that the requisition of the Fanling Golf Course should start with its eastern part, which is 32 hectares in area, has also been criticised for not being aggressive enough.

Hong Kong is in urgent need of land. The more land that can be created in the short term, the better it will be. But we also have to consider how to execute the options in reality. The Fanling Golf Course is controlled by a handful of people and occupies a huge amount of land resources. The government should requisition the golf course and revoke these people's privilege as soon as possible. As for whether all the land should be used for putting up housing in the short term, the government has to consider the environment and supporting transportation facilities. After all, the golf course is complete with old trees and graves, and North District residents are worried about the capacity of the transport system. It is pragmatic to develop the land in phases. As for the development of brownfield sites, though it is supported by more than 80% of citizens, it is, as the Task Force has pointed out, not an easy option that can be executed immediately. Brownfield sites are not wasteland; there are economic activities going on thereon. The complex issue of relocation and compensation can drag on for years.

All sectors of society should muster the resolve and put the public interest first. They should put aside their prejudice and self-interest so as to allow the search for land and the construction of housing to go smoothly. When it comes to increasing land supply, many people still put their interests first and refuse to cooperate, while others emphasise ideology and talk loftily about ideals in disregard of reality. Increasing land supply can no longer be delayed and should no longer be held back. All sectors of society should look at the issue of finding and producing land for putting up housing pragmatically rather than abstractly.

明報社評2019.01.01﹕民意選定造地方向 政府社會勿再蹉跎







precedence﹕the condition of being more important than sb else and therefore coming or being dealt with first

requisition﹕a formal, official written request or demand for sth

in want of sth﹕needing sth

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