The Development Bureau (DEVB) concluded today (April 27) the interim public engagement activities for the Kau Yi Chau Artificial Islands (KYCAI) project.
On December 29 last year, the DEVB, together with the Civil Engineering and Development Department and the Planning Department, briefed the Panel on Development of the Legislative Council on the preliminary proposals for four aspects of the KYCAI project, namely the reclamation extent, broad land use, strategic transport infrastructure and possible financing options. The public engagement activities of this stage were then launched.
As of March 31 this year, exhibitions were held at 10 locations including City Gallery, Tung Chung Community Liaison Centre, Central and Western District, Islands District, Yuen Long District, Tuen Mun District and Tsuen Wan District, receiving some 16 000 visitors in total. Over 30 briefing sessions were organised in this round of public engagement, reaching over 1 700 stakeholders from relevant districts and sectors through face-to-face or online exchanges. The project webpage showing relevant information of the study recorded over 20 000 visits.
About 7 800 public comments were collected through various channels including exhibition venues, online comment forms, emails, telephone calls, fax and post. Of them, over 60 were from groups or organisations (including professional institutes, think tanks, the business sector, the construction industry, green groups and concern groups, etc). About 60 per cent of the some 7 800 comments received expressed support for the project, considering that the project could increase the land supply, enhance the strategic transport network, and that the proposed reclamation extent and the three-island configuration had already taken into account relevant factors such as the environment and technical feasibility, etc.
About 25 per cent of the comments expressed opposition to the project. The major concerns were about the impact on the environment, ecology and public finance. The remaining comments (about 15 per cent) did not explicitly express their stances. They only expressed views and raised questions on different aspects.
At the some 30 briefing sessions, the study team received many positive and constructive comments, the majority of which agreed that the project, by providing more land, would be conducive to increasing the housing supply and fostering the overall development of Hong Kong. It would also improve the overall transportation network of Hong Kong.
Moreover, the study team had continuously gathered public opinions from other channels such as media reports and social media, etc. About 180 related articles from newspaper columns and editorials have been read. Of the some 110 articles with clear stances, nearly 60 per cent were supportive of the project. They were mainly of the view that the project could provide land to alleviate the housing shortage and bring benefits to the economic and commercial development of Hong Kong. Articles against the project accounted for around 40 per cent, which were mainly related to project cost controls, impacts on the public finance and economic benefits.
The Secretary for Development, Ms Bernadette Linn, said, "The artificial islands project will create 1 000 hectares of land through reclamation, which is an important future land supply source of Hong Kong. The Chief Executive recently emphasised that Hong Kong needs to catch up on time, results and pursue a leading position. We should look ahead for land creation. Only with sufficient land can we make policies to improve people's living and working space, develop priority industries as well as enhance the competitiveness of Hong Kong."
She added, "The concept of developing the artificial islands has been discussed and explored for many years since 2011. After an extensive public engagement in 2018, it became one of the priority options for land supply. The Government hence commenced the related planning and engineering studies. We should move on to tap constructive views on how to refine the project rather than continuing the debate on whether to implement it or not.
"We are pleased to note that the majority of the comments received are supportive of the KYCAI project. Such support is encouraging and would definitely help drive us to do a better job. Nevertheless, the opinions and concerns expressed by all sectors of society, whether they are supportive or not, would help further develop our study. We hope that with the concerted efforts of the community, we will jointly implement this land development project which can bring tremendous economic and social benefits to Hong Kong."
The public comments were collated and preliminarily summarised, of which about 40 per cent touched on the reclamation extent, 50 per cent on the broad land use, 30 per cent each on the strategic transport infrastructure and possible financing options. Some of these public views touched upon proposals of different aspects at the same time.
Regarding the comments on reclamation extent, some agreed to the proposed reclamation extent of the three-island configuration, expressed concern about the impacts of reclamation on the marine environment, water flow and water quality, and the effectiveness of the coastal protection measures in coping with climate change.
Regarding the comments on broad land use, some agreed that the artificial islands could provide land and alleviate the shortage of housing, but some cast doubt on the scale of the third Central Business District, commercial viability and direction of industry development, and some considered there was a need to review the housing supply and the public to private flat ratio.
Regarding the comments on strategic transport infrastructure, some supported the proposed Hong Kong Island West - Northeast Lantau Link and Hong Kong Island West - Hung Shui Kiu Rail Link and considered they could complete the strategic transport network of Hong Kong, enhance connections between the New Territories and urban areas and alleviate the existing road congestion to and from urban areas. Some considered the first phase of population intake should match with the provision of transport infrastructure, while some were concerned about the impacts on the existing waterfront open space, community facilities and transport network in the Kennedy Town and Tuen Mun areas at the construction stage and after completion of the project.
Regarding the comments on possible financing options, some supported to consider taking forward the project by a "public-private-partnership" financing option, while some expressed concerns about the impact on public finance caused by the project, the project cost estimate and control, and some considered the assessment of economic benefits too optimistic.
The engineering team will refine and further develop the proposals, taking into account the public concerns. There will be public engagements at different stages (including during the periods of various statutory procedures) as the study progresses. The Government aims to commence the statutory process of the Environmental Impact Assessment for KYCAI and the connecting strategic road this year, and will commence a detailed engineering design and ground investigation of the project in 2024. After entering the more detailed engineering design stage, there will be a better basis for proposing how to implement the project in stages and prepare a comprehensive cost estimate according to the development schedule.
At the same time, the platform formed by the Government and six professional institutes has already started working. Two working groups will be set up for in-depth discussions on issues related to sustainable design of the artificial islands and planning of the living communities respectively, with a view to putting forward suggestions on a more creative design of the artificial islands.
The full report of this round of public engagement will be uploaded to the project website (www.centralwaters.hk/en/) after consolidation.
Ends/Thursday, April 27, 2023
Issued at HKT 19:25