Following is a question by the Hon Jeffrey Lam, and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (October 16):
It has been learnt that the Government is actively expanding land resources to meet the housing and social development needs of Hong Kong people. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the area and percentage of developed land in the 1 100-odd square kilometres of land in Hong Kong at present; among the developed land, the respective numbers of sites used for public and private housing, commercial, industrial and agricultural purposes, as well as a breakdown of the respective areas and percentages of the sites by land use;
(b) among the greenfield sites, of the respective areas of land designated as country parks and special areas under the Country Parks Ordinance, and the percentage of the area of such land in the total land area in Hong Kong; the area of the remaining greenfield sites and its percentage in the total land area of Hong Kong; as well as a breakdown of the respective areas and percentages of the above two types of land by District Council district; and
(c) whether the authorities will explore ways to develop the existing greenfield sites (such as developing long-abandoned quarries and idle government, rural and industrial sites, as well as re-designating for housing purpose "Green Belt" areas in the fringe of the new development areas which are of low value) so as to increase the land supply; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
To satisfy the housing demand and various needs of the Hong Kong community, the 2013 Policy Address gave a clear account of the overall policy blueprint of the current-term Government on increasing land supply to tackle the housing problem. The Policy Address clearly stated the guiding principle of facilitating social and economic development and the vision of improving the living space of the people of Hong Kong through increasing land supply. As such, the Government will continue to adopt a multi-pronged strategy to increase land supply in the short, medium and long term, through the continued and systematic implementation of a series of measures, including the optimal use of developed land as far as practicable and creating new land for development.
My reply to the question raised by the Hon Jeffrey Lam is as follows:
(a) Based on satellite images taken in January 2013 as well as other relevant information from various government departments up to end 2012, the Planning Department (PlanD) estimates (Note 1) that total land area of Hong Kong is about 1,108 square kilometres (Note 2). Amongst others, the built-up land area is estimated to be about 265 square kilometres and account for about 24% of the total land area of Hong Kong. The estimated areas of the various types of built-up land, and their estimated percentages in the total area of built-up land are set out at Annex A.
Agriculture land (including agricultural land and fish ponds/gei wais) does not form part of the built-up land area. According to the estimates, agriculture land has a total area of about 68 square kilometres, accounting for about 6% of the total land area of Hong Kong.
(b) According to PlanD's estimates above, the areas of various types of non built-up land, including the approximately 68-square kilometre agriculture land as mentioned in part (a) of the reply, and their respective percentages of the total land area of Hong Kong, are set out at Annex B.
On the other hand, according to the information provided by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, there are currently 24 country parks and 22 special areas in Hong Kong, covering about 442 square kilometres and accounting for about 40% of the total land area of Hong Kong. There is also about 70-square kilometre of land zoned "Conservation Area", "Coastal Protection Area" or "Site of Special Scientific Interest" on statutory plans. All these areas are counted as part of the aforesaid non built-up land.
The Government has no statistics on the built-up and non built-up land by District Council districts.
(c) The ten initiatives to increase housing land supply in the short to medium term put forward in the 2013 Policy Address cover a broad range of measures, which include optimising the use of existing developed land as far as practicable, reviewing and rezoning suitable "Government, Institution or Community" and other government sites, "Green Belt" (GB) sites and industrial sites, etc. to residential or other uses, as well as developing quarry sites. The Government is determined to plan the land supply for Hong Kong's long-term development, extensively create new land for development and build up a land reserve such that land can be used to meet future demand in a timely manner.
The "greenfield" sites as mentioned by the Hon Jeffrey Lam, i.e. the non built-up land, cover different types of land as shown by the figures above.
Amongst others, special areas, "Conservation Areas", "Coastal Protection Areas" and "Sites of Special Scientific Interest", etc. have conservation values and thus are not suitable for housing and other developments in general. The Government currently has no plan to develop country parks for housing purpose.
The remaining non built-up land scatters across the territory and involves a number of distant areas or islands, as well as rather steep slopes. In order to develop the larger sites with a higher development potential therein, we need to carry out comprehensive planning and engineering studies to ascertain the sites' development feasibility, infrastructures and ancillary facilities before their developments.
The gentler non built-up land is mostly rural land and usually involves sites under different uses in between, such as private agricultural land, squatters, village housing, other structures as well as open storages facilities. To develop such land, clearance, re-housing and land resumption will be involved and local employment and economy will also be affected. Planning and public engagement are the prerequisite in developing such land. The North East New Territories New Development Areas (NDAs) and Hung Shui Kiu NDA expeditiously taken forward by the Development Bureau are clear examples of how to put rural land to optimal use by way of comprehensive planning.
Amongst the non built-up land, some individual sites are closer to the developed areas with adequate infrastructure facilities and potential for further developments. We are reviewing and assessing the development feasibility of these sites through the series of on-going land use reviews, including:
* to review vacant government sites, or those currently under short term tenancy or other government uses; and
* to carry out the second stage review on GB sites to review those low-value GB sites in the fringe of urban areas and NDAs.
These reviews start to bear fruits. We have identified a number of suitable sites in various districts throughout the territory which could be considered for conversion to residential use. Upon completion of studies to confirm feasibility of developing these sites, we will consult stakeholders and proceed with the town planning and other relevant procedures to convert the suitable sites for residential and other uses as quickly as possible.
Increasing housing land supply is undeniably a challenge to both the Government and society. Stakeholders may be affected by the initiatives and have different views on, say, increasing development density of the existing land, changing the prevailing land use and creating new land. Nevertheless, land supply is tight and there are not many easy options, and the society has to make difficult choices and trade-offs. We hope different sectors of the society can face the reality and make trade-offs, with a view to ensuring that there will be sufficient land in Hong Kong for meeting the housing needs of the public and the various needs for social and economic developments.
(Note 1) The estimated figures only serve to reflect the current utilisation of the land in Hong Kong, and thus have no direct relation with their respective land use zonings on the statutory plans. Hence, the estimated figures cannot be compared directly with the total areas of the relevant land use zonings.
(Note 2) Including mangrove and swamp areas below the High Water Mark.
Ends/Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Issued at HKT 13:08