Following is a question by the Hon Albert Chan Wai-yip and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (October 26):
In recent years, as the land available for housing development in urban areas has decreased gradually, quite a number of members of the public have requested the Government to consider reducing the coverage of country parks by developing some of the land in the country parks which is of relatively low ecological value at present into residential sites, so as to increase housing supply. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the respective sizes and locations of areas within existing country parks which are regarded by the authorities as having conservation and ecological value, as well as those without obvious conservation and ecological values (list in table form); and
(b) whether the authorities have considered reducing the coverage of country parks to develop more residential sites; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that, and whether the authorities will consider reducing the coverage to release more land, so as to increase the supply of residential sites; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
Country parks are designated under the Country Parks Ordinance, which falls within the policy portfolio of the Environment Bureau. Based on information provided by that Bureau, my reply to the two parts of the question is as follows:
(a) In considering the suitability of a site for country park designation, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) bases its assessment on three main intrinsic criteria, namely, conservation value, landscape and aesthetic value, and recreation potential of the site. If the site is considered suitable, AFCD will initiate the procedures under the Country Parks Ordinance, including public consultation, and deposit the map designating the country park in the Land Registry upon endorsement. As the authority adopts an approach in administering the areas designated as country parks which is different from the information sought under part (a) of the question, the Environment Bureau is unable to provide the requested list.
(b) At present, there are 24 country parks and 22 special areas in Hong Kong, covering about 44 000 hectares of land. They are protected by the Country Parks Ordinance for conservation and recreational purposes. These areas also provide important habitats for over 98% of the flora and fauna of Hong Kong.
Our country parks are natural heritage that the public treasures and attaches great importance. They play an indispensable and vital role in our nature conservation work by facilitating our efforts in managing and sustaining the natural resources that are of prime importance in maintaining biodiversity in the territory, so that these resources can be enjoyed by the present and future generations of the community. We have no plans in hand to reduce the coverage of the country parks and release the land for residential development.
However, as pledged by the Chief Executive in the 2011-12 Policy Address, we will be innovative in expanding our land resources that can be used for housing development. Apart from planning new towns and new development areas, we have identified the following measures:
(i) Release about 60 hectares of industrial land for non-industrial uses, half of which will be made available for housing;
(ii) Explore the option of reclamation on an appropriate scale outside Victoria Harbour;
(iii) Actively explore the use of rock caverns to reprovision existing public facilities and release such sites for housing and other uses;
(iv) Look into the use of green belt areas in the New Territories that are devegetated, deserted or formed, thus no longer performing their original functions, and convert them into housing sites;
(v) Examine "Government, Institution or Community" sites to avoid the under-utilisation of sites long reserved but without specific development plans; and study ways to reduce the restrictions posed by government utilities to the development of adjacent areas; and
(vi) Explore the possibility of converting into housing land some 150 hectares of agricultural land in North District and Yuen Long currently used mainly for industrial purposes or temporary storage, or which is deserted.
Ends/Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Issued at HKT 14:31