The Lands Department (LandsD) generally accepts the findings of the investigation report released by the Office of The Ombudsman today (September 13) on the system of regularisation of illegal occupation of government land and breach of lease conditions, and will continue to follow up on the five recommendations made in the report.
The Office of The Ombudsman recommends that a proactive inspection mechanism be worked out on the illegal occupation of government land and breaches of lease conditions. For better utilisation of government resources, LandsD will, in the light of the social circumstances, conduct proactive inspections and strengthen control and enforcement in some key areas. Initiatives that have been implemented recently include:
i) Regarding lease breaches in industrial buildings, the department has earlier announced its risk-based enforcement strategy and will conduct proactive inspections in targeted buildings; and
ii) Investigations and information collection have been enhanced through the use of an unmanned aircraft system and aerial photos to prevent illegal erection of structures in the announced new development areas and also squatter areas.
LandsD stresses that it never encourages illegal occupation of government land by any occupiers. Applications submitted thereafter will not necessarily be considered or approved. For instance, citing the information in the Ombudsman's report, about 65 per cent of the applications received in 2012-14 were rejected. Similarly, of the applications for a short-term waiver regarding lease breaches, almost 40 per cent were rejected.
Moreover, LandsD has tightened the arrangements on regularisation applications in recent years. It has earlier announced that it will not accept applications to regularise unauthorised structures being erected on private agricultural land and cases involving uses in breach of leases in industrial buildings that jeopardise public safety.
As for regularisation applications that can be processed further, LandsD will tighten the processing arrangements so as to prevent opportunists from resorting to the tactic, through submitting applications, of delaying LandsD's enforcement actions against them. Specifically, the department will no longer withhold its enforcement actions while it processes regularisation applications made by the landowners or occupiers, unless there are special considerations in support of withholding the enforcement, such as when taking further enforcement actions will conflict with the relevant policy directions, adverse effects will be brought about on people's livelihood, there are safety concerns, and other similar factors. Departmental guidelines will be drawn up along these lines.
LandsD hopes that the series of measures explained above would demonstrate the department's determination in tackling illegal occupation of government land and lease breaches. That said, since the seriousness of cases handled by District Lands Offices varies in their nature, site areas and other aspects, LandsD has to act according to priority. For this reason, some minor cases may take more time to tackle, and understanding of the general public is thus very much appreciated.
Ends/Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Issued at HKT 16:10