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Take a holistic view and act without delay (19/5/2013)

The SAR Government has been working hard to increase land supply for housing, hoping that in considering our proposed measures, the community will take a holistic view and make hard choices so that we can work together to tackle the shortage of land and build up a land reserve. Some groups oppose the Government’s proposals to increase land supply. They present various reasons and statistics and are sceptical of the pressing need for land, disregarding the overall situation and the actual needs of the community. One of their opposing reasons is that population growth in future will be slower than the original projection, so that we should wait until all the studies and statistics under review have been completed. I agree on the need to review the population policy and the Chief Secretary for Administration is now chairing the Steering Committee on Population Policy. However, population projections can never be perfectly accurate. Even though there may be deviations in the projections, the overall trend is still on the rise. In particular, we have to increase our youth population when facing an ageing population. According to the Census and Statistics Department's population projections announced in 2012, Hong Kong’s population will grow by almost 1.37 million in the coming 30 years, representing a growth of some four hundred thousand per decade on average, which is almost equal to the population of Sha Tin New Town (excluding Ma On Shan). To cope with this future growth, we have to make land available with an area similar to that of Sha Tin New Town each decade. If we look at our map, where can we find sites with a similar size in the next ten, twenty and thirty years? In fact, according to the Planning Department, during the 20-year period from 1990 to 2011, an increase almost equalling the area of Sha Tin New Town every five years. We are now facing: (1) more than 220 000 public housing applicants on the Waiting List; (2) many people are living in sub-divided flats, squats or dilapidated conditions; (3) there is a need to rehouse affected residents before redevelopment; (4) we need to build 179 000 PRH units in 10 years in addition to HOS flats; (5) there is a need to provide land to build 20 000 private residential flats every year; (6) there is a shortfall of commercial, office and retail spaces; (7) parks/open spaces, residential care homes for the elderly, hospitals, schools, community halls, sports, recreational and religious venues all call for land and (8) we also have to provide supporting infrastructure and facilities such as roads, railways, water treatment works, sewage treatment works and power stations and so on. Building up a land reserve is important. The Kai Tak Development Plan began in 1992, and its original planned development area was about 580 hectares with a population capacity of 320 000. Today its total area and the population capacity are decreased to 323 hectares and about 90 000 respectively. It is not until lately that the first piece of land in Kai Tak was put up for sale for private residential development, and public housing flats will only be completed later this year. The North East New Territories New Development Areas (NENT NDAs) project was first proposed in 1990. It will provide about 700 hectares of developable land with a population capacity of 150 000, according to the planning assessment in the Stage Three Public Engagement last year. From the initial proposal to studies being carried out, and from the planning stage to the first intake of residents, it has taken more than 20 years for these two plans to be realised. It is evident that developing new land takes a long time. Therefore, we have to adopt a multi-pronged approach to increase land supply so that different land supply options can complement each other and a land reserve can be built up. This serves as risk management on the one hand, and helps us seize unpredictable development opportunities on the other. Singapore has an abundant land reserve and a number of sites which allow flexible uses on their master plan. What Singapore has succeeded in doing is in fact what we achieved in the past. We have ceased conducting studies on reclamation since 2000. Instead, since 2007, we have transported surplus public fill materials to Taishan, providing more than 400 hectares of reclaimed land for Taishan, but leaving our shortage of land problem unresolved. If Hong Kong remains hesitant, leaving the problem of land shortage to continue to hinder our livelihood and development, who will suffer most in the end?

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Fostering a culture of site safety (12/5/2013)

......Over the last ten years, site safety in the construction industry has been significantly improved. However, there is still room for improvement. We have adopted multi-pronged measures in public works projects to improve and enhance site safety management, including: (1) Strengthening the safety system and providing guidelines; (2) Regulating and monitoring; (3) Providing incentives. Nonetheless, with the passage of time, and when major infrastructural and public works projects reaching a peak construction period in the coming years, our safety management system will face greater pressure and challenges. The Pay for Safety Scheme implemented in public works projects has all along been supported by the industry. We will enhance the Pay for Safety Scheme in the second half of this year by introducing factors linked with safety performance in our works contracts. Contractors will get an extra cash award up to a maximum of 2 per cent of the cost of the works if they achieve good performance in nine areas. Looking ahead, we have five visions or “CARES”. The Development Bureau will launch Construction Safety Week 2013 in conjunction with the Construction Industry Council on May 27. A territory-wide ceremony will be held and we hope to mobilise stakeholders, including construction workers, in fostering a culture of work safety and enhancing safety awareness.

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Why oppose the military dock? (5/5/2013)

Recently some groups attacked us by exploiting the current mechanism and procedures on a number of issues, intending to paralyze or even undo our work. I deeply regret to see this happening. The technical amendment to the Central District (Extension) Outline Zoning Plan (“OZP”) regarding the military dock, which I mentioned in “My Blog” previously, is one such example. On that day a newspaper made inaccurate reports under the headlines “People’s Liberation Army to ‘occupy’ Central” and “Dock turned into building blocks”. Some groups disseminated the news through the Internet with “added-on information”, suggesting that three-storey buildings with a total floor area of 30,000 square metres, which is equivalent to half the size of the IFC, could be built on the dock. In fact, the dock site will only occupy 3,000 square metres of space with four single-storey buildings having total floor area of 200 square metres. Some reports also suggested that the military dock, the design of which has already integrated with the open waterfront promenade, would be double-fenced and closed by the PLA all the time preventing public enjoyment of the harbourfront...... These unsubstantiated accusations misled the public and caused panic. Some groups invited members of the public to voice opposition to the TPB through emails and provided an opposition letter template on the social media platform. As that day is the last day for making representations to the TPB, as a result, the TPB received almost 10,000 written representations by the time the public exhibition period ended. The Garrison has, on the request of the HKSAR Government, agreed to open the area of the military dock site as part of the promenade when it is not in military use. This is a solemn undertaking. As compared with the waterfront of the Tamar site before reunification, the current arrangement and design is much more open. The Garrison understands that our community treasures the promenade. I do not see any reason why the Garrison would build massive structures on the site purposely to block the harbourfront view. So, why should we remain to view the whole issue with mistrust, suspicion and hostility?

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Meet the challenges ahead and develop brownfield sites (28/4/2013)

......Besides reclamation outside Victoria Harbour and rock cavern development...... review of agricultural land in Yuen Long currently abandoned, or used as industrial or temporary storage, for housing development as soon as possible......We have identified two major Potential Development Areas (PDAs) with a total area of about 200 hectares. The sites are located to the south of Yuen Long New Town and bounded by the Yuen Long Highway, Kung Um Road and Tai Lam Country Park...... the area is mainly occupied by open storage yards, warehouses, and workshops......These uses have resulted in degradation and pollution of the rural environment, localised flooding, traffic congestion, fire hazards and industrial/residential interface problems related to the environment, such as those in regard to noise and air quality. If we can integrate these sites with appropriate land use planning and urban design, and provide supporting infrastructure and community facilities, the environment will be much improved...... Stage 1 is to collect public views on the constraints, opportunities, major issues and guiding principles for development, and the views will be taken as the basis for the Preliminary Outline Development Plan......At the same time, we will conduct technical assessments and studies, including those into traffic, infrastructure and supporting facilities, the environment, ventilation, landscape, urban design and more......numerous constraints include Infrastructure, Drainage and sewerage, Cavities, Environment and air quality, Impacts on communities, Culture and ecology, Private land ownership, Logistics support......

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Military dock: lawful actions with openness and transparency (21/4/2013)

......Recently some groups claimed that the community would no longer be able to enjoy the harbourfront after zoning part of the new Central harbourfront for the military dock......The Planning Department has made thorough responses to the media’s enquiries over the past few days.......(1) Obligation to implement the Defence Land Agreement...... (2) Unreasonable accusation of “ceding territory”......(3) Open information on the provision of dock facilities......(4) Procedural fairness duly followed ...... (5) Existing structures to be handed over...... (6) Arrangements with mutual respect and reason...... (7) Confusion due to misconception...... We accept and welcome public scrutiny of our work, and will continue to brief the public and explain the subject matter in a sincere and open manner. We hope the critics could respect facts and not make unfounded accusations with no legal basis.

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