Acting SDEV speaks to the media

Following is the transcript of remarks by the Acting Secretary for Development, Mr Eric Ma, at a media session after attending a radio programme today (January 25):
Reporter: Can you clarify under this idea, if we do develop housing on country parks, will the total size of the country parks in Hong Kong be reduced at all?
Acting Secretary for Development: I think the most important thing at the moment is that we are increasing conservation area and country park area. We have a few projects in hand that we are looking into. One of them is Robin's Nest which is at the northeastern parts of the New Territories. It has roughly a size of about 500 hectares. Our country parks are increasing in terms of area, but at the same time, the most important is increasing the ecological value. So, if you are talking about the total area, I think we have a baseline. Currently we have got about 400 square kilometres of country park area, and this is the baseline and the starting point. Instead of just increasing the area, we also want to increase and enhance its ecological value and enjoyment for the public.
Reporter: So you are saying that figures will increase?
Acting Secretary for Development: Yes. At the moment, we are increasing the figures to enhance and expand the country park area.
Reporter: By how much?
Acting Secretary for Development: It is a continuously evolving process. In the last decade, we added the Lantau North Country Park. This is an increase in area already, and we will continue to look at various potential areas that can increase the country park area, and most importantly, to enhance its ecological value.
Reporter: How likely is the Government going to complete the study to identify possible sites within this current administration?
Acting Secretary for Development: That is our best endeavour. We will try our best to meet that target.
Reporter: What challenges are you facing?
Acting Secretary for Development: The challenges are, as I mentioned earlier, first about the programme itself because we only received the instruction from the Chief Executive yesterday. We need to sit down with various government departments to draw up a work plan on how to accomplish it, to identify the sites and also carry out some very initial preliminary study on development potential, ecological value and other factors.
Reporter: That's quite a lot of work. Would you say it is unlikely that you will be able to complete the study with this current administration?
Acting Secretary for Development: Sure it is quite a lot of work, and we will try our best, because we need to have more solid examples in order to let the community have a fruitful discussion, so we will try our best to provide the information as soon as we can.
Reporter: During the RTHK programme, you talked about the area outside the Tai Lam Tunnel north exit as a possible site. Can you explain why this is a possibility?
 Acting Secretary for Development: The proposal was raised by Mr P C Lau (member of the Economic Development Commission Mr Lau Ping-cheung) two years ago. At that time he raised, with some details, the area on the northern side of Tai Lam Tunnel. He opined that the ecological value of the site is not high. So I think that is one potential area that we could look into and give some more facts on this proposal, so that the community can have a discussion.
Reporter: So is it because it is near the tunnel? Can you explain which criteria you are looking at?
Acting Secretary for Development: There are three criteria. First, we need to look into its ecological value. Second, the accessibility of the site and enjoyment for the public. Third, the site should be at the fringe of the country park area. I think this site may, or likely, be able to satisfy these criteria.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:09