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Transcript of SDEV's remarks

Following is the transcript of remarks by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, at a media session after the second meeting of the Lantau Development Advisory Committee today (June 14):

Reporter: Secretary, given the strong opposition at LegCo yesterday, would the Government reconsider the North East New Territories development proposal and put it on hold to do more public consultation? A number of lawmakers have criticised you for not talking with the residents and not listen to what they have to say.

Secretary for Development: We are not going to put this project on hold, we will not put the funding application on hold. This project was restarted back in 2008, over a period of five years and three rounds of public engagement. We announced the final plan last year, taking into consideration many comments we received during the consultation period. This is an important project for Hong Kong. It is a major source of land and housing supply for Hong Kong in the medium term. As you know, this particular project in total will contribute about 60 000 units, 60 per cent of them are subsidised housing, including both public rental and HOS (Home Ownership Scheme) flats.  This particular project will also bring about 37 000 employment opportunities. 

As I explained, while gazetting the Outline Zoning Plan, and going through the town planning procedure, we concurrently applied for funding from the LegCo for some initial works, basically preparation work and site investigation works. This is an established practice for major public works projects, and the objective of doing this is to try to do things concurrently as far as possible, so that we can save some time. The reason to save time is that we want the housing supply to reach the market and the people as soon as practicable.  Given the current timetable, this first batch of public rental housing will be available for our people's occupation in 2023, which is nine years from now even if we proceed fully now.  If we put this matter on hold, this project will get further delayed. 

In the past five years and three rounds of public engagement, while we acknowledged the criticism about the extent of the consultation, with hands on our heart, we did our best. I along with my colleagues visited these two areas last November. Apart from myself, my colleagues from different departments reached out to the residents there on different and many occasions. We did not just go there to listen, we acted. For example, after visiting them last November, a couple of residents told us that they want us to do the pre-clearance survey earlier, so that they can put their mind at ease, because originally the pre-clearance survey would be done a couple of years later when we start to gazette and rezone. We acknowledged their anxiety, and my colleagues at the Lands Department did some redeployment and started conducting the pre-clearance survey in January. This is just one example.

The other example would be the Dills Corner elderly homes.  To cut the long story short, given the location of the elderly homes, we have no choice but to clear it, but we are sensitive to the concerns and the anxiety of the elderly people living there. That is why we work with the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, to find another piece of land in the neighbouring area to build a multi-storey elderly home, so that they can move there.  And we are also trying to do the clearance in two stages to minimise the impact on the elderly people. We have been trying very hard, and we will continue to try our very best.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Saturday, June 14, 2014
Issued at HKT 21:52