The project of the Kau Yi Chau Artificial Islands (KYCAI) will create 1 000 hectares (ha) of land by reclamation to expand the scope and capacity of Hong Kong’s development. We hope that out of the 3 000 odd ha of “disposed sites” to be provided in the coming 10 years, 300 ha will come from the artificial islands in order to meet the housing and other community needs and support the sustainable development of Hong Kong in the medium to long term. My colleagues and I submitted an interim report on the project progress to the Legislative Council (LegCo) Panel on Development about a week ago (29 December 2022). We have started meeting with different sectors (including professional organisations, the financial sector, economists, etc.) tirelessly for exchange on the initial proposal of the project. I can feel that we all share the same goal of taking forward the project successfully with our concerted efforts. I hope the KYCAI, comprising three islands, will provide a living and economic zone of the new generation for Hong Kong so as to enhance the well-being of our people and create a strong impetus for Hong Kong’s growth.
Strategic position Facilitating the sustainable development of Hong Kong
The Northern Metropolis and the KYCAI are two strategic growth areas in Hong Kong. The scope and capacity of Hong Kong’s development will be expanded and diversified development opportunities will be provided through large-scale land creation by reclamation. The artificial islands are comparatively close to the core business district (CBD) in Central in the east, the Hong Kong International Airport and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB) in the northwest. With its geographical location, the KYCAI can become part of the expanded Harbour Metropolis to enable the development of a CBD close to the financial centre in Central, and offer decanting spaces for the chain flows arising from the redevelopment of old urban areas on Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon. Besides, under the planning of the strategic road and rail infrastructure for the development of the artificial islands, key routes will be developed for opening up Hong Kong’s transportation network to strategically connect with the world, and also the CBDs in the Greater Bay Area (GBA) to foster the integrated development between Hong Kong and the GBA. The artificial islands provide an opportunity for us to plan a network of strategic transport infrastructure in the west and facilitate the connectivity among the Northern Metropolis, artificial islands and Hong Kong Island.
Grasping the economic opportunities Prosperous and diverse development
The Government needs to create land in advance to provide Hong Kong with a development foundation for new opportunities. Looking ahead, the artificial islands will provide new land for developing a third CBD (CBD3) for the new generation and other industries, providing a total of about 5 million square metres of commercial gross floor area (GFA) and creating 270 000 employment opportunities, with about 4 million square metres coming from the CBD3. Such a work-live-play CBD will become Hong Kong's new economic engine and will be complementary to the CBD1 in Central and the CBD2 in Kowloon East, offering a smart, modernised and innovative business environment, fostering diversification of our industries, attracting local, Mainland and foreign enterprises to give Hong Kong’s economic development new impetus, further enhancing Hong Kong's international competitiveness, consolidating Hong Kong's status as an international financial centre and trading centre and enhancing our strengths in legal services. Besides, land will be reserved in CBD3 for the provision of facilities related to housing, culture, creative arts, entertainment, sports and daily life, as well as a large quantity of quality public spaces.
Green, liveable and forward-looking city strategies
Different from developed urban areas, the artificial islands planned to be built give us more room for urban design with emphasis on liveable, smart, green and resilient city development with a view to creating a carbon neutrality community and a core zone of a new generation.
The residential sites of the artificial islands will provide a total of 190 000 to 210 000 residential flats for accommodating a population of 500 000 to 550 000. We have adopted higher planning assumptions in land planning and reserving residential sites by increasing the average flat size by 10 to 20 percent. With the adoption of more aggressive assumptions, the Government will be able to set the threshold for the flat size of public and private housing on the artificial islands, making the flats more liveable.
The artificial islands, comprising three islands, will provide Y-shaped channels to effectively cope with the impact of reclamation on water quality and ecology. A shoreline with a length of 20 odd kilometres and over 200-metre-wide channels among the islands will provide a quality harbourfront for leisure activities and water sports. Besides, we will consider adding cultural tourism elements such as fisherman's wharfs with a view to providing the local fisheries industry with the opportunities of upgrading and transformation.
Seven liveable living communities on the artificial islands will be connected by a green mass transit system and separated by blue-green corridors with a green waterfront promenade along the shoreline. Based on the concept of 15-minute neighbourhood, each community will be around 80-100 ha and residents will be encouraged to travel by healthy modes such as walking or cycling with less reliance on private cars. The communities will provide a total of about one million square metres of floor area for commercial purpose, and it is considered that some of the floor area will be provided in a community facilities complex for leasing to start-ups and freelancers as offices in order to enhance the diversity of employment and increase the local employment ratio of residents.
The project aims to build a community of carbon neutrality. On one hand, we will plan a convenient and resilient layout, encourage green building to reduce consumption of energy, and adopt Modular Integrated Construction method to reduce carbon emissions. On the other hand, we will implement a smart, green and resilient infrastructure system, adopt the design elements of a “sponge city”, make use of renewable energy, build a desalination plant as well as food waste/sewage sludge anaerobic co-digestion facilities. Coupled with smart mobility initiatives, all the above will contribute to the achievement of carbon neutrality before 2050.
Investing in development Long-term benefits
There is no doubt that the KYCAI project will bring huge social and economic benefits to Hong Kong. The economic benefits will gradually be derived from the construction period to the first population intake in 2033 and the opening of strategic road links. A rough estimate that the added value brought about by the economic activities generated from the full development of the KYCAI will be some $200 billion annually, accounting for about seven percent of Hong Kong's gross domestic product. Furthermore, the public and private housing developments, quality living environment and strategic transport infrastructure provided under the project will have social and economic value.
When my colleagues and I briefed the LegCo on the progress of the project, a number of Members spoke in support of the project. We are also aware of the concerns of some Members and the society, including their worries about the pressure imposed by the development of the Northern Metropolis and the reclamation at Kau Yi Chau on the government finances and social human resources, the impact on fishermen, the effectiveness of the transportation network, etc. Regarding such a strategically significant land creation project, what we need to do is working hard to solve the problems and address the concerns when conducting further studies.
Taking the project cost as an example, given that the studies have not been completed, we are not able to make a detailed estimate at money-of-the-day price. However, based on the limited information available, a rough estimate at the cost of the second quarter of 2022 will be about $580 billion, with nearly 30 percent for reclamation, more than 20 percent for general infrastructure and about 50 percent for strategic road links and railways. With further studies conducted, we hope we can make a more detailed estimate in 2024. We will give a further account when seeking funding approval from the LegCo in 2025, then the approved funding will become the figures subject to supervision.
We have also made it clear that we do not need to rely entirely on public funds to deliver the project. Even though public funds will be invested in the project by the Government, it will generate land sale revenue for the Government. Through different financing options, the project can be taken forward by leveraging market force. Hong Kong is a world-class international financial centre, so we have confidence to find suitable financing solutions by harnessing collective wisdom and insights.
Co-building professional platform to rise to challenges
To realise community participation in planning the core zone of a new generation, we have invited relevant professional institutes to set up a platform to discuss and refine the design of the artificial islands. Among which are the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers, the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors, the Hong Kong Institute of Planners, the Hong Kong Institute of Urban Design and the Hong Kong Institute of Landscape Architects.
The team and I are looking forward to the delivery of the project, and we will continue to work with various stakeholders to enhance the development plan and implement the project at full speed to build the future for the artificial islands.
8 January, 2023Back