Following is the speech entitled "An Overview of the Northern Metropolis Development Strategy" by the Secretary for Development, Ms Bernadette Linn, at the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors (HKIS) Annual Conference 2022 – "Northern Metropolis: A New Era of Hong Kong towards Sustainability, Resilience and Growth" today (September 17):
President KK (the President of the HKIS, Mr Chiu Kam-kuen), distinguished speakers, ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning. It is my pleasure to join you at the event this morning.
First of all, I think it is most fitting and proper for HKIS to have chosen this topic, the Northern Metropolis, as the theme of the annual conference. This is because at the beginning of this term of the Governnment, we have already made it very clear that our strong focus of this administration will be placed on land and housing supply, economic growth and sustainability. Ahead of us there will be two major growth engines, one is the Kau Yi Chau reclamation, and the second the Northern Metropolis.
I was suggested to give an overview on the Northern Metropolis. This is a mammoth task to achieve within 15 minutes, considering the geographical coverage of 30 000 hectares, the projected population of 2.5 million, around one-third of Hong Kong's total, and the many initiatives we are taking to transform it into a modern, prosperous and livable community. But if you allow me, I would like to present the Government's vision for this precious region from three perspectives.
First, the Northern Metropolis is not just about the future, but also about the present.
The Northern Metropolis is sometimes understood, or misunderstood, as something to happen in the remote future, a project in the making, a distant goal that we can only dream of. This overlooks the fact that we are building our vision on a strong basis that we already have, and the solid actions already in the pipeline.
The Northern Metropolis is about the present, because we already have the existing area, unlike the Kau Yi Chau reclamation which we have to create. The land is there. We have Yuen Long and North Districts, which are already home to a number of populous and vibrant communities. New towns such as Fanling, Sheung Shui, Yuen Long and Tin Shui Wai have matured and are still expanding. Their juxtaposition with rural communities, countryside and wetland is an asset for the diversity it has created. Their proximity to the Mainland is a known advantage in both economic and social terms, unequalled in Hong Kong and elsewhere in the region. All these existing attributes and advantages will be further developed under the Northern Metropolis Development Strategy unveiled last October.
The Northern Metropolis is about the present also because of the actions that are underway, and the outcomes that we expect to see very soon.
Take new development areas, or NDAs, as an example. Some of these large-scale projects are already under construction. Works have started in Kwu Tung North and Fanling North NDAs progressively from September 2019. My surveyor friends may have noticed that the first private residential development in Fanling North, through a land exchange, is already under pre-sale, to be completed in 2023. The first public housing estates in Kwu Tung North and Fanling North will be ready in 2026. Kwu Tung Station, the first on the Northern Line, will be open in 2027. Likewise, works have already started in Hung Shui Kiu and Yuen Long South, with the former being more advanced, expecting the first population intake in 2024.
In other words, we will be seeing imminent and major changes in the area within the coming few years.
Of course, the Northern Metropolis is, no doubt, also about the future, the promise for a better place to live, better environment, better economy and better connectivity.
On top of the projects already in the pipeline, our strategy puts forward a number of new development projects, including the Lau Fau Shan and Tsim Bei Tsui area, the Ma Tso Lung area, and the Lo Wu/Man Kam To area. The Government advocates five railway projects, including three that would cross the boundary, one of them strategically connecting the future Hung Shui Kiu NDA and the rapidly developing Qianhai area. On the conservation side, we propose three wetland conservation parks in Nam Sang Wai, Sam Po Shue and Hoo Hok Wai.
These newly proposed initiatives are either under study or to be studied soon, but it does not mean that we should cast any doubt on their certainty and timeliness of implementation. What we are doing today as preparations will lay a strong foundation for what we intend to achieve. In other words, there is a strong connection between the present and the future. And actually, of all the studies that I have mentioned, the study results regarding land uses and infrastructure, will be progressively available starting from the latter half of next year. In the spirit of the keyword, streamlining, we are confident that we will take these projects forward at a pace much faster than we did for similar projects in the past.
The second perspective from which I think we should approach Northern Metropolis is that it is not just about Hong Kong, not just about building enough land and housing for the people of Hong Kong to enjoy, but it is also about regional significance. It is about enlarging the work, play area for the Hong Kong population. We do not just think about Hong Kong in the local context, but the wider regional significance.
The acute housing problem facing Hong Kong of course is evident. With the NDAs, we will provide space in the Northern Metropolis to house about 540 000 additional flats. In fact, Kwu Tung North, Fanling North and Hung Shui Kiu will become the major sources of supply of public housing starting from the middle of the coming 10-year period.
With this new population and improved connectivity with the Mainland and other parts of Hong Kong, the Northern Metropolis will be a centre of economic activities in itself, providing some 650,000 jobs, creating a healthier home-job balance and reducing our time commuting to and fro.
While on economy, I should echo the Financial Secretary in mentioning that the Northern Metropolis carries special significance for our innovation and technological development which we have to develop. The San Tin Technopole will take full advantage of the 240 hectares of I&T land available and its synergy with the Shenzhen I&T Zone, aspiring to become an international I&T hub in the Greater Bay Area, generating about 60 000 new jobs in the I&T field.
Domestic importance aside, the Northern Metropolis is also significant because it carries regional implications. Specifically, the "National 14th Five-Year Plan" and the "Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Grater Bay Area" (GBA) open new doors for Hong Kong to collaborate with the Greater Bay Area for complementary and coordinated development. The Northern Metropolis enjoys a unique position to capitalise on such opportunities.
The Strategy (Northern Metropolis Development Strategy) presents the interaction and co-operation of Hong Kong and Shenzhen with a spatial framework of "Twin Cities, Three Circles", with each "circle" offering its unique opportunities.
Let us start from the west, which is the Shenzhen Bay Quality Development Circle. Taking advantage of the expansion of the Qianhai Co-operation Zone, and the proposed cross-boundary rail link from Hung Shui Kiu to Qianhai, Hung Shui Kiu can be upgraded into a centre for modern services, with its catchment extending into the hinterland of the GBA.
In the middle, the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Close Interaction Circle can be a base for Hong Kong and Shenzhen to jointly advance I&T development, that is why we have the San Tin Technopole in the very centre.
On the east, the Mirs Bay/Yan Chau Tong Eco-recreation/tourism Circle offers abundant natural resources as well as rich cultural heritage, creating opportunities for sustainable eco-recreation and green tourism, for enjoyment by people from both sides of the boundary.
The significance of the Northern Metropolis is therefore two-fold: its strategic location means that it is not just a source of local land resources. Its physical and economic connections with the Mainland are sure to generate unparalleled opportunities and synergies for development of both places.
Let me move on to the third perspective, which is it requires both hardware and software development to succeed. Both hardware and software.
I have talked a lot about hardware just now: new land development projects, new railway lines, new conservation parks. They are all important. But developing a metropolis also has a software dimension, an important one. Land and infrastructure development has to be underpinned by carefully crafted policies to reap their full benefits.
Take I&T development as an example. While the San Tin Technopole is an initiative of an unprecedented scale to provide dedicated land for I&T development, we need to devise wise and practical policies as to how to use the land.
We need to ask ourselves tough questions. Questions like how we can compete and succeed in an increasingly competitive environment, how we attract businesses that create values for Hong Kong, and how we attract the best talents to come to work. The answers to these questions would shape our land use proposals, for example, shall we make our zoning more flexible. It will also shape our ways of disposing land, for example, must we stay with the conventional land sale disposal method, which is open tendering based on the highest tenderer getting the land. We have to also consider the subsequent management options – do we have options, do we have conditions to set, what are the enterprises that we would like to bring into Hong Kong. These will shape our policies and how we dispose of the land and how we encourage parties to make good use of the land.
Another economic area where good policies count is logistics, as another example. So far, a total of about 70 hectares of land has been reserved in Hung Shui Kiu and Yuen Long South for logistics development. Again we need to consider how best to use them for the development of the trades.
One of the experiments we will be doing is to make use of some of the logistics land for development of multi-storey industrial buildings, both for more efficient utilisation of land and for housing some of the brownfield operations to be displaced by the Government as we develop the Northern Metropolis. It is also our hope to facilitate the upgrading and modernisation of these brownfield operations through this initiative.
We are in the process of formulating arrangements for disposing these sites. The intention is to dispose them commercially in the market, but with conditions requiring the successful bidders to let certain floor areas of the buildings to displaced brownfield operators. More details will be available when we disclose them for consultation with the Legislative Council later in the year.
Ladies and gentlemen, for me, Northern Metropolis is as much about the present as it is about the future. It is an important project that carries both local and regional significance. And it takes both hardware and software for the development to succeed. And all three together, I hope, will give us a rainbow Northern Metropolis.
I hope that through an overview of the Northern Metropolis from these three perspectives, you come to understand more about what it is, and what it means for your sector, and Hong Kong as a whole.
After all, the Northern Metropolis must be a concerted effort. It is not just about creating the land. It takes the work of all of us to make it a metropolitan good for living, work and travel, and an engine of economic growth for Hong Kong. I count on HKIS and I continue to count on you as always and your members, with your expertise and strong sense of service, to play an active role in this common undertaking. I look forward to working with you all and receiving your wise counsel.
Thanks for having me with you here today. May I wish the conference a great success. Thank you.
Ends/Saturday, September 17, 2022
Issued at HKT 14:08