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Editorial : Fanling Golf Course must be requisitioned

【明報專訊】THE Task Force on Land Supply has recommended that the government requisition 32 hectares of land from the Fanling Golf Course as a priority. In response the Hong Kong Golf Club has published statements in newspapers expressing fierce opposition. Some people even argue that if Hong Kong loses a worthy golf course, foreign enterprises might not choose to be headquartered in Hong Kong.

The report by the Task Force shows that the use of land on Private Recreational Leases is supported by more than 60% of people, which is a clear reflection of the opinion of mainstream society. The lease of the Fanling Golf Course will expire in 2020. Considering factors such as conservation and the capacity of supporting transport facilities, the Task Force suggests the government give priority to the requisition of 32 hectares of land east of Fan Kam Road for putting up housing. Whether the remaining 140 hectares of land should be developed in the long term and whether the golf course should be relocated should be studied in detail by the government, the Task Force suggests.

Since the big debate was launched, some people in the business sector and golf sector have vehemently opposed the requisition of the Fanling Golf Course. Some business heavyweights have stated in their submissions that some foreign business partners like to play golf at Fanling and if the golf course is gone, the conduct of business talks will be affected. Since the report was published, some people against the requisition of the golf course have criticised the partial or full development of the golf course for being "extremely ridiculous". They are worried that Hong Kong "might not be able to organise international competitions" anymore. They also say that less and less companies are setting up regional headquarters in Hong Kong due to the lack of education and sports facilities.

Ordinary citizens might think it is these assertions that are "extremely ridiculous" indeed. To some business people who like to hold business meetings and play golf at the same time, the absence of a place to swing the club might be a bit regrettable. But business people talk business, and to them it is profit that matters most. The public is doubtful whether a business deal will fall apart or a corporation will give up establishing headquarters in Hong Kong because there is not a place to play golf. The Task Force also says that under the partial development plan, the remaining 140 hectares of golf course land (including two 18-hole courses and the old 10-hole course) can still support the hosting of international golf competitions.

In recent years, regions like Singapore and Shenzhen have requisitioned land occupied by golf courses for better use of land resources. In contrast the HKSAR government has expressed reservations about the requisition of Fanling golf course land, with some high-ranking officials even parroting the excuses of the golf club as if they were its mouthpiece. Now that the Task Force has put forward some concrete proposals, the government should explain its preference to the public as soon as possible to show that the authorities put the public interest first and will not balk at doing the right thing in the face of opposition from the rich and powerful. In 2013 the Singaporean government proposed releasing low-usage land for the building of housing and infrastructure. Just the next year it requisitioned three pieces of land used by golf clubs. The SAR government should learn from the Singaporean authorities' determination and ability to act.

明報社評2019.01.04:局部發展為紓土地荒 高球場仍須盡早收回

土地供應小組建議政府優先考慮收回粉嶺高球場32公頃土地,香港哥爾夫球會在報章刊登聲明強烈反對,有意見還認為,如果香港失去一個有規模的高球場,外國企業未必會選擇在香港設立地區總部,云云。

土地小組報告顯示,市民支持利用「私人遊樂場地契約用地」的比率超過六成,主流民意清晰。粉嶺高球場租約2020年屆滿,土地小組考慮到保育及交通配套等因素,提出以粉錦公路為界,建議政府優先研究收回公路以東32公頃球場用地,用來興建房屋;長遠是否發展餘下140公頃球場用地,又或重置高球場,則由政府從長計議。

土地大辯論以來,部分商界和高球界人士大力反對收回粉嶺高球場,有商界大人物提交意見書,表示一些外國生意伙伴來港,喜歡到粉嶺打波,若沒有高球場,會影響他們傾生意。土地報告發表後,有反對收回高球場人士批評,局部或全面發展粉嶺高球場「極度荒誕」,擔心日後香港「無法再辦國際賽」,又說在港設立地區總部的公司愈來愈少,皆因欠缺教育、運動設施等配套,云云。

普羅市民聽到這些說法,也許真的會感到「極度荒誕」。一些生意人喜歡邊打高球邊傾生意,對他們來說,少了一個打波好去處,也許有點可惜,然而在商言商,最重要是有利可圖,單是因為「無波打」,會否導致生意告吹,又或放棄在港設立地區總部,公眾好生懷疑。土地小組表示,在局部發展方案下,餘下140公頃高球場地(包括兩個18洞球場及舊場10洞),仍可繼續支援舉辦國際高球賽。

近年新加坡和深圳等地為了妥善運用土地資源,都有收回高球場用地,反觀特區政府對於收回粉嶺高球場,態度一直相當保留,有高官甚至照搬高球會說辭,形同傳聲筒。土地小組現已提出具體建議,政府應該盡快交代取向,證明當局會以公眾利益為先,不會因為權貴反對而投鼠忌器。2013年,新加坡政府提出釋放低用途土地,用來興建房屋和基礎設施,翌年即收回3個高球俱樂部用地。星洲當局的決心和行動力,特區政府有必要借鑑。

■Glossary

worthy : having qualities that deserve your respect, attention or admiration

regrettable : that you are sorry about and wish had not happened

mouthpiece : a person, newspaper, etc. that speaks on behalf of another person or group of people

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