Last year, I was honoured to be appointed as the Secretary for Development. Time flies. A year has passed. With the concerted efforts of departmental colleagues, we have been handling numerous issues. During the process, we have reached out to different stakeholders to conduct open and frank exchanges on various policies and initiatives. I am impressed by the number of people who are committed to our society. Our views may differ at times, but we share common goals of driving society forward and developing Hong Kong into an ideal city for living and working. Now, I would like to review with you the work of the Development Bureau (DEVB) over the past year.
Housing and land
Inadequate housing and land supply has been a long-standing problem in Hong Kong. Providing a steady and sustainable land supply to cope with Hong Kong’s various development needs tops the Government’s agenda. We have been adopting a multi-pronged approach to find and create land on all fronts, including rezoning, increasing development intensity as appropriate, co-ordinating studies on brownfield sites, exploring the reactivation of the revitalisation scheme for industrial buildings and taking forward New Development Area projects. Our work has never stopped or slowed down. Of these projects, the reclamation works of Tung Chung New Town Extension began early this year. It is expected to accommodate a population of some 140 000 persons upon completion.
We will optimise the potential of every land site. Where planning and infrastructure permit, the Government will allocate suitable sites for public housing development as far as possible to address the appropriate aspirations of the community. Since 2016-17, a total of 17 sites originally designated for private housing development have been reallocated for public housing, capable of providing 22 600 flats in total. They include nine sites set aside for private housing at Kai Tak and Anderson Road Quarry, as announced by the Chief Executive earlier.
However, given the housing and land shortages, the most effective way is still to increase land supply. In April this year, the Task Force on Land Supply launched a five-month public engagement exercise with DEVB’s full support, in the hope that members of the public will try their best to participate in the discussion and offer valuable advice.
In taking forward all sorts of works projects, the construction industry plays a vital role. However, the industry has been facing the challenges of labour shortage, high construction costs and declining productivity in recent years. The DEVB has been collaborating with the industry in actively promoting the “Hong Kong Construction 2.0”, by advocating innovation, professionalism and rejuvenation of the industry as well as encouraging adoption of technology and innovative construction methods, such as promoting the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology, assisting the industry in establishing large-scale, highly automated steel reinforcing bar prefabrication yards, and taking the lead in piloting Modular Integrated Construction (MiC) in public projects.
One of the measures is the setting up of a $1 billion Construction Innovation and Technology Fund proposed by the Government. The Construction Industry Council also set up the Construction Innovation and Technology Application Centre at the end of last year, which serves as a platform for the industry to showcase and introduce various advanced technologies.
As the overall construction expenditure is expected to exceed $250 billion annually in the coming 10 years, it is necessary to attract new blood to the industry. In order to train more high-calibre and professional practitioners, the Hong Kong Institute of Construction was set up at the beginning of this year to offer programmes recognised under the Qualifications Framework and a clear career progression path to people interested in joining the industry.
Building a safe city
To live and work in peace and contentment is a common aspiration among most Hong Kong people. However, without timely maintenance and repair, old buildings might pose a threat to occupants and passers-by. “Operation Building Bright 2.0”, which will be launched shortly, will provide subsidies for owners of higher risk buildings to conduct necessary inspection and repair works. By promoting timely maintenance and repair work for old buildings, we hope to enhance building safety and improve the living environment.
Recently, lift incidents have aroused much public concern. The Electrical and Mechanical Services Department will enhance lift safety by formulating short-, medium- and long- term measures, including the immediate strengthening of inspections and random checks to ensure the quality of the maintenance and repair works carried out by contractors. The medium-term measures include the study of the feasibility of providing subsidies for property owners to modernise aged lifts to enhance their safety. The long-term measures include the study of the feasibility of mandatory lift modernisation works. Meanwhile, we will continue to strengthen our work on water supply, flood prevention, slope safety, and tree management in order to build a safe city.
For Hong Kong to become a liveable city, heritage conservation is of utmost importance. Over the past year, three major revitalistion projects have opened to the public successively, i.e. the Blue House Cluster, Murray Building, and Former Central Police Station – Tai Kwun. Of which, the Blue House Cluster, with its bold and innovative “Retain House and Tenant” concept, has won the top honour of the Award of Excellence of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation, proving that our adaptive re-use of revitalised historic buildings is recognised and up to international standards.
In the second half of this year, three other revitalisation projects, namely the Hong Kong News-Expo, Haw Par Music Farm and Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups Institute for Leadership Development, will commence operation. Also, the selection results of Batch V of the Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme will be announced today. In July last year, the street carnival “Heritage Vogue • Hollywood Road” attracted more than 56 000 visitors. The carnival will be held again in November this year and members of the public are welcome to join in.
Joining hands and pooling collective wisdom
Over the past year, the Under Secretary for Development, Mr LIU Chun-san, the Political Assistant to Secretary for Development, Mr FUNG Ying-lun, Allen, DEVB colleagues and I often went to the Legislative Council and district councils to explain the Government’s policy stance. I also had many opportunities to reach out to the community and have direct communication with the public. I listened to their comments and suggestions and shared with them the Government’s views and considerations. I went to a home for the aged to visit “old pals” to enjoy the holiday, invited children and their parents for a ride on the Ferris Wheel to enjoy the beautiful Victoria Harbour and amazing harbour views. I also met with young people of different professions and encouraged them to work for their ideals. To make a better Hong Kong, the Government cannot do it alone. Let’s join hands, participate and contribute to make it a reality.
5 July, 2018Back