Providing a steady and sustainable land supply to cope with Hong Kong's various development needs tops the Government's agenda. Since its establishment in September last year, the Task Force on Land Supply appointed by the Chief Executive has already held 14 meetings to take a thorough and macro review of the 18 land supply options. Last week, the Task Force officially launched a five-month public engagement (PE) exercise to engage the community in discussions on the pros and cons of the different options and their priorities. The objective is to allow the public to grasp the basic information on the various options before making choices and decisions. At the present stage, the Government will listen carefully to public views of various sectors of community to consolidate the foundation for our next stage of work. Recently, I have invited Mr Stanley WONG, Chairman of the Task Force, to talk about the work of the PE exercise and what he expects to achieve.
Focusing on measures for land supply
Firstly, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to members of the Task Force for their efforts and contributions over the past months. I understand that the public has very high expectations on the Task Force and the Government, and we would not underestimate the challenges that lie ahead. But one thing for sure is that we are all determined to increase land supply to meet the housing demand of Hong Kong people and other development needs of society. With the commencement of the PE exercise, the work burden of the Task Force will become increasingly heavy. Still, Stanley believes that the hard work will eventually pay off.
Stanley said that the five-month PE exercise was the primary work of the Task Force. The aim is to provide Hong Kong people with comprehensive information on land supply to ensure that the majority of stakeholders in society could review the pros and cons and priorities of the land supply options in a macro and rational manner before making choices. After the PE exercise, the Task Force will submit a report to the Government to fully reflect the views and suggestions collected during the consultation period.
To discuss with an open mind and in a knowledgeable manner
In the formulation of public policy, many a time the Government will have to make choices. Things are no black-and-white issues, no views are either completely right or completely wrong and it is never a simple case of all-or-nothing. Instead, considerations have to be given to the prevailing circumstances and public sentiment, as well as the long-term development and more. I entirely agree with Stanley. As far as public discussion and making of choices are concerned, the more stakeholders to express comments, the more benefits will be brought to society. I firmly believe that in the pluralist society of Hong Kong, we will be able to give consideration to different topics and views with an open mind and in a knowledgeable manner.
Narrow down differences, lessen resentments
Stanley and I have a common experience; both of us have served as members of the Town Planning Board (TPB) before. Stanley had been a member of the TPB for 12 years and he was so diligent that he has a close-to-100 per cent attendance rate for board meetings. Stanley said that taking part in the TPB’s work over the years was a very good learning process for him because what he needed to do as a TPB member was exactly to listen to different stakeholders’ views on different proposals before making a decision on them.
I agree with Stanley. The land supply options for Hong Kong often involve a lot of technical factors, such as challenges arising from planning, environment and engineering. It is our hope that by conducting a transparent and extensive PE exercise, we will come up with a multi-pronged approach chosen by the majority of Hong Kong people, if not one single choice that all people will find agreeable to or willing to be supportive of. As in the case of TPB meetings, members of TPB often debate until they are blue in the face. However, as everybody talk in a candid and open manner and base the discussions on facts, the intense debates often end up deepening members’ understanding of the topics in question and even of the viewpoints of their counterparts. There may be different views and standpoints, but at least we can alleviate resentments by discussing them openly.
Continue to adopt a multi-pronged approach to identify land
The land shortage problem is pressing and the work to increase land supply cannot afford any further delayed. While the Task Force takes forward the PE exercise, the Government will continue to adopt a multi-pronged strategy to increase land supply in a sustained manner. In the short to medium term, mainly by changing existing land uses and suitably increasing development density, taking forward projects at the Kai Tai Development Area and at the former quarry sites; as well as urban renewal and other development projects. For the medium to long term, we will push ahead at full speed the New Development Areas and New Town Extension projects. These include: Tung Chung New Town Extension, Kwu Tung North and Fanling North New Development Areas, Hung Shui Kiu New Development Area, Yuen Long South development and more. Amongst these projects, the reclamation and advance works for Tung Chung New Town Extension already started in end-2017. This is the first New Town Extension project involving reclamation since the completion of the final stage of reclamation for new town development at Tseung Kwan O and Tung Chung in 2003.
While some people may think that the demand for land will be reduced by abolishing the One-Way Permit (OWP) Scheme, this might have overlooked many Hong Kong people’s need for family reunion. The aim of the OWP Scheme is to allow reunion of Hong Kong people with their Mainland family members. In fact, as reflected by statistics, the vast majority of OWPs holders are settling in Hong Kong for family reunion (98% of them are the mainland spouses and children of Hong Kong people). In recent years, as cross-boundary marriages have made up as much as 35% to 40% of locally registered marriages, it is expected that the need for family reunion will continue. In addition, the education standard of OWP holders settling in Hong Kong are getting higher, with nearly 90 percent of them having attained education at secondary level or above. With a median age of 32, which is lower than that of 44 for the whole population of Hong Kong, it is expected that OWP holders will provide valuable labour for Hong Kong.
In the days to come, the Government will render full support for the work of the Task Force, including this large scale PE exercise, to lead society to carry out discussions, engage in communication and make choices with regard to the problem of land supply. We will carefully consider the recommendations of the Task Force upon its submission of the PE report. Land supply is a complex problem entailing diverse of views. Yet, we are confident that the Task Force will come up with constructive proposals for the Government upon widely gauging public opinion. It is our hope that through this PE exercise, our society will narrow differences and forge consensus on ways to increase land supply.
29 April, 2018Back