Last week, I introduced to you the work of the Lands Department (LandsD) on approving applications by non-government organisations (NGOs) and social enterprises for short-term uses of government sites. In furtherance of the gainful use of land, the Development Bureau (DEVB) launched the Funding Scheme to Support the Use of Vacant Government Sites by NGOs in February 2019 to support successful applicant organisations in pursuing basic restoration works in a bid to take forward worthy projects for the community. This time, I have invited one of my colleagues in the DEVB to brief us on the implementation of the funding scheme since its launch, and some of the grantee organisations will share with us their experiences.
Granting subsidies to 20 projects since its implementation for over two years
A total of 20 NGOs’ projects have been granted subsidies under the funding scheme since its implementation for more than two years. Assistant Secretary (Planning) of the DEVB, Mr HUNG Kin-lok, Thomas, says that the Government has no plan to use up the entire sum of funding in a short time. For example, out of the 20 projects approved, 11 projects have been granted funds for site investigation and detailed design only. The relevant NGOs are still required to apply to the DEVB for a greater amount of funding to cover the costs of the works in the next stage. The DEVB has all along taken up a gatekeeper role cautiously to ensure the proper use of the approved funds. The whole approval process will be expedited if interested NGOs can provide adequate information at the early stage of application.
Offering technical advice to facilitate smooth completion of the works
Having regard to the fact that some applicant organisations may not be well versed or experienced in project planning and works management, the DEVB and professional government departments will provide technical advice for applicant organisations and the professionals they have engaged to facilitate smooth completion of the works. Mr Thomas HUNG says that the funding scheme has started to bear fruit. Two of the projects have come on stream after the smooth completion of the works. The works for another six projects are expected to complete this year or next year, and the remaining projects will commence progressively and undergo detailed design.
Diversity of the funded projects
To step up publicity and promotion of the funding scheme, the DEVB has actively participated in the seminars co-organised by professional institutes and NGOs so as to enhance awareness of the scheme among different sectors of society and benefit more members of the community. The projects granted subsidies thus far are diversified in nature, including arts and culture, community inclusion, community gardens, animal rights, transitional housing, not-for-profitmaking schools for children with special needs, etc.
An open community garden
One of such projects is the project for the government site adjacent to the Belcher Bay harbourfront open space in Kennedy Town, which has commenced operation after the smooth completion of the works. On the site with an area of around 2 000 square metres, Rough C, the NGO of the K-Farm project, has built the first community garden in Hong Kong which has incorporated hydroponics, aquaponics and organic farming systems. Advisory Board Member of K-Farm, Mr Raymond MAK, says that K-Farm is also the first waterfront community garden in Asia which has incorporated three major agricultural technologies, bringing new experiences to the community by providing members of the public with a chance to learn some farming techniques. They will also interact with various sectors of the public by introducing such farming methods to schools, communities, the elderly homes, etc.
Mr Raymond MAK says that the community garden came across numerous issues in its start-up phase, such as the need to maintain communication and collaboration with various departments and stakeholders in regard to the architectural design. Thankfully, the DEVB has provided assistance under the funding scheme by playing a coordinating role and offering professional advice, making the proposed project viable for the benefit of the general public. He says that he is deeply touched and grateful for the concerted efforts of various departments in the project, which is the fruit of their collaboration.
A multi-purpose activity centre at the harbourfront in the Eastern district
Another project supported by the funding scheme covers the government site at the harbourfront of Quarry Bay in the Eastern district. Chief Executive Officer of St. James’ Settlement (SJS), Ms Josephine LEE, tells us that SJS as the grantee organisation plans to build on the site a single-storey multi-purpose activity centre with an adjacent large lawn for public enjoyment and engagement. SJS will make good use of this piece of land to foster arts and cultural development, personal mental and physical development and blue sky thinking, as well as promoting to the public the distinctive features of the Eastern district with a view to bringing vibrancy to the harbourfront areas.
Ms Josephine LEE says that the whole parcel of land situated atop the Eastern Harbour Crossing involves a number of technical issues that require communication with various government departments. Hence, she appreciates the invaluable advice given by the DEVB with respect to the application they submitted and the architectural design of the project, which has enabled them to make the impossible possible. Currently, funding has been obtained to cover the costs of advance works and construction works. The project is now under construction and the centre is scheduled for commissioning by the end of next year.
With the increasing number of approved projects that will be delivered at the end of this year and beyond, we are expecting a higher number of government sites available for short-term tenancy applications to be utilised again by capitalising on community wisdom to take forward worthy projects for the community. Meanwhile, we will continue to timely review the implementation of the funding scheme in the light of experience accumulated, so as to benefit more NGOs.
On a different note, the nomination period for the 2021 Legislative Council General Election (LegCo election) ended last Friday (November 12). From the number of nomination forms received, there will be competition in the elections for the three functional constituencies (FCs) related to the DEVB, namely architectural, surveying, planning and landscape FC, engineering FC and real estate and construction FC, for there are more than one candidates contesting in the respective elections for these FCs. The improved electoral system will ensure broader representation and balanced participation in the Council, which is consistent with the overall interests of Hong Kong. I hope that all of you will care about and attach great importance to the upcoming LegCo election, and gain a better understanding of candidates’ election statements, missions and policy advocacies. Please assume your civic responsibility by voting on December 19 so as to elect high-caliber talents into the Council for the future of Hong Kong.
14 November, 2021Back