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Editorial: The government's ambiguous position on the partial development of the Fanling Golf Course

【明報專訊】THE Task Force on Land Supply has proposed that the government should give priority to eight options. Of these options, the only one that Chief Executive Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor remains non-committal about is the partial development of the Fanling Golf Course. She has said instead that "it would probably be irresponsible" for the government to fully accept suggestions put forward in any report. Using land on Private Recreational Leases and reclaiming land from the sea are among the options supported by over 60% of people. What Lam has said shows that there is a gap between the opinion of government officials and that of the public. Now the question is whether the government should respect mainstream public opinion. If the government insists on rejecting the proposal of the task force, it should first convince the public by providing reasons grounded on stronger public support and principles of overriding importance.

There will be a shortage of 800 hectares of land in Hong Kong over the next eight years. In its report the Task Force on Land Supply proposes that priority be given to three short- and mid-term options. They are the development of brownfield sites and private agricultural land and the partial development of the Fanling Golf Course. Even if all three proposals are accepted by the government, they will only provide 300 hectares of land or so. Chairman of the task force Wong Yuen-fai said openly that there was no reason for the government not to accept all options. However, Lam thinks that whether the government should take back the golf course is still a "controversial" issue in society. She thinks that it should be considered together with the views of stakeholders using the land and the public in another consultation exercise conducted by the Home Affairs Bureau.

The lease of the golf course is to expire in 2020. Last March the Home Affairs Bureau launched a 6-month consultation to review the Private Recreational Lease policy. The government's interdepartmental working group put forth a number of proposals, including taking into account the contribution of private sports clubs to promoting sports development in Hong Kong when considering the renewal of their leases upon expiry. What Lam has said has inevitably aroused public concern about whether the government will use the conclusion of the Home Affairs Bureau's review to reject the task force's suggestion of taking back part of the land of the golf course.

The public consultation of the Home Affairs Bureau targets mainly the users of private recreational sites. It is meant to reflect the opinions of stakeholders and the emphasis is on their interest. In contrast, the report of the Task Force on Land Supply prioritises the opinion of all people and the common good. The report of the consultation of the Home Affairs Bureau should not have precedence over the report of the task force. There is no painless option for increasing land supply. Controversies are inevitable. It is difficult for Lam to justify her reservations about the option of taking back the Fanling Golf Course only on the grounds that it is controversial. If such a logic could be accepted, none of the 18 options to increase land supply could be executed.

The question of the Fanling Golf Course is a question of land supply as well as social justice. Hong Kong suffers from a severe shortage of housing in the short term. The Hong Kong Council of Social Service has urged the government to set up a $1 billion fund to build only 2,000 transitional homes. The 32-hectare land of the Fanling Golf Course is right there before us. It can be used to build thousands of flats after 2020. There is no reason for the government to let it go. The purpose of the big debate on land supply is to identify mainstream public opinion and to help the government to overcome all obstacles in the search for land to put up housing. If the government bows to the rich and the privileged now, it will be remembered forever for its notoriety for turning its back on public opinion. It will never be able to redeem itself from the heavy political price that it has to pay.

明報社評2019.01.10:收回高球場民意清晰 顧左右言他官意曖昧

土地供應專責小組建議政府優先處理8個選項,行政長官林鄭月娥唯獨對局部發展粉嶺高球場未置可否,說如果政府對各項報告書都照單全收,「未必是負責任行為」。利用私人遊樂場地契約用地,與填海等土地選項,同獲六成以上民意支持,林鄭說法反映官意民意有落差,現在問題是政府還要不要尊重主流民意。倘若政府執意否決小組建議,請先拿出更具民意基礎和凌駕性的理由說服公眾。

未來8年本港至少缺地800公頃,土地報告建議的3個短中期優先選項,即發展棕地、私人農地以及局部發展粉嶺高球場,就算政府盡做也只能提供300多公頃土地,小組主席黃遠輝明言,看不到政府有何理由只做某些選項,不過林鄭認為,社會對於應否收回高球場「似乎仍有很大爭議」,應該等待現正使用該幅土地的持份者和市民,透過民政局另一諮詢工作表達意見後,才一併考慮。

粉嶺高球場租約2020年屆滿。去年3月,民政局展開檢討私人遊樂場地契約諮詢,為期半年,當時政府跨部門工作小組提出多項建議,包括根據私人體育會對本港體育發展的貢獻,考慮是否續約。觀乎林鄭說法,外界難免關注政府會否以民政局的檢討結果,推翻土地小組局部收回高球場的建議。

民政局的公眾諮詢,主要針對私人遊樂場地用家,代表的是持份者意見,側重的是小我。面對以全民意見和大我利益為先的土地報告,民政局諮詢報告不可能有凌駕性。增加土地供應沒有無痛選項,有爭議乃是必然,林鄭以社會「似乎仍有很大爭議」為由,唯獨對收回粉嶺高球場表示保留,很難說得通。如果這種邏輯成立,18個土地選項恐怕沒有多少個可以做。

粉嶺高球場問題既涉及土地供應,亦關乎公義。本港短期房屋供應嚴重不足,社聯促請政府設立10億元基金,所為者只是興建約2000個過渡房屋,現在粉嶺高球場32公頃土地擺在眼前,2020年後便可即時用來興建數千單位,政府沒理由輕輕放過。土地大辯論為的是得出主流民意,協助政府排除萬難覓地建屋, 政府如果現在向權貴利益低頭,將永遠背負罔顧民意惡名,付上無可挽回的沉重政治代價。

■Glossary

overriding : more important than anything else in a particular situation

notoriety : fame for being bad in some way

redeem oneself : to do sth to improve the opinion that people have of oneself, especially after one has done sth bad

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