Following is a question by the Hon Leung Kwok-hung and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (February 19):
The Government has repeatedly told this Council and the media that owing to the shortage of land or opposition from the local communities, several projects such as building subvented residential care homes for the elderly (RCHEs), columbaria and waste management facilities could not be implemented. Quite a number of members of the public have relayed to me that as most of the areas of the land in the North East New Territories New Development Areas (NDAs) are undeveloped and NDAs have a relatively smaller population, NDAs can provide the land needed for building the aforesaid facilities, and it is also believed that opposition from the local communities in NDAs would be relatively less than that in other developed areas for implementing such projects. Regarding the land planning of NDAs, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) as the Government indicated in its reply to a question raised by a Member of this Council in November last year that land would be reserved in NDAs for building RCHEs, of the areas of the lands reserved and the number of subvented RCHEs that can be built, as well as the number of places to be provided by those RCHEs;
(2) as the Government indicated in its reply mentioned in (1) that land would be reserved in NDAs for the development of a hospital, of the area of the land reserved and the number of beds to be provided in the new hospital; whether the Government has reserved land for building subsidised infirmaries; if not, how the Government solves the problem of the shortage of subsidised infirmary places;
(3) as the Government indicated in its reply mentioned in (1) that land would be reserved in NDAs for building subsidised housing, of the respective areas of the lands reserved for public rental housing (PRH) estates and Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) courts, as well as the respective numbers of flats to be provided in the PRH estates/HOS courts concerned;
(4) whether the Government has reserved lands in NDAs for building columbaria; if so, of the areas of the lands reserved and the number of columbaria that can be built, as well as the numbers of large and small niches to be provided in those columbaria; if not, how the Government addresses the shortage of niches;
(5) whether the Government has reserved lands in NDAs for building funeral parlours; if so, of the areas of the lands reserved and the number of funeral parlours that can be built, as well as the number of mourning halls to be provided in those funeral parlours; if not, how the Government ensures that funeral services are adequate;
(6) as the Government has indicated that there is an urgent need to develop integrated waste management facilities with incineration as the core technology, whether the Government has reserved lands in NDAs for building such facilities; if so, of the areas of the lands reserved, and how many tonnes of wastes can be processed by such facilities each day; if not, how the Government implements projects for building such facilities;
(7) whether the Government has reserved land in NDAs for developing a new landfill; if so, of the area of the land reserved, and how many tonnes of wastes the new landfill can take in per day; if not, how the Government solves the problem of the existing landfills nearing exhaustion; and
(8) whether the Government has reserved land in NDAs for building a centralised quarantine centre for live poultry, so as to step up the related quarantine work; if so, of the area of the land reserved, as well as the number of live poultry the quarantine centre can quarantine per day; if not, how the Government addresses the need for quarantine of imported live poultry?
The objectives for the implementation of New Development Areas (NDAs) are to cater for the long-term requirement on housing demand of residents and Hong Kong's social and economic development. In July last year, we announced the North East New Territories (NENT) NDAs Project (NDAs Project), which included results of the Stage Three Public Engagement of the NENT NDAs Planning and Engineering Study (the Study), the revised Recommended Outline Development Plans (RODPs) for the Kwu Tung North (KTN) and Fanling North (FLN) NDAs, as well as the arrangements for implementing the NDAs Project, including the mode of implementation and the compensation and rehousing arrangements for the affected households and farmers. Details concerning the NDAs Project have already been set out in the paper submitted to the Legislative Council Panel on Development on July 15, 2013 (LC Paper No. CB(1)1461/12-13(01)).
Under the NDAs Project, we will proceed with development of the KTN and FLN NDAs, as extension to Fanling/Sheung Shui New Town, with a view to addressing the housing (particularly subsidised housing) and other development needs of Hong Kong. Upon completion of the NDAs, the overall population of the Fanling/Sheung Shui/Kwu Tung New Town will reach around 460 000 (with an additional population of 173 000 in the KTN and FLN new town extension areas). As the overall development will be of a relatively large scale, it will be capable of providing comprehensive commercial, retail, community, recreational and cultural facilities, as well as various types of job opportunities, thus realising a more effective sharing of resources.
After consulting the Food and Health Bureau, Labour and Welfare Bureau, Environmental Protection Department and Planning Department, the consolidated reply to various parts of the question is as follows:
(1) Accommodation for four Residential Care Homes for Elderly (RCHEs) has been reserved in Areas 13 and 24 in KTN and Area 15 in FLN. The number of RCHEs places to be provided will be confirmed at the detailed design stage.
(2) A site about 4 hectares (ha) has been reserved for the proposed hospital, polyclinic and general clinic/health centre in Area 28 in KTN. It is expected that the planned hospital could provide 580 beds.
To meet the community's health-care needs, the Hospital Authority (HA) would continue to closely keep in view and conduct projections on the demand of medical services in various districts, including the NENT NDAs, and plan for the provision of various health-care facilities. In planning for the provision of public health-care services and facilities, including the number and types of beds, such as acute, specialist, rehabilitation/convalescence, infirmary, palliative care, day beds, etc., HA will take into account various factors, including forecast of demand for medical services of the district according to population growth and demographic changes; growth rate and forecast of service needs for specialist services; and possible changes in the utilisation patterns, etc.
To meet the future health-care needs of the North District as a whole, we have also reserved a site adjacent to the North District Hospital (NDH) on top of the site reserved for medical use in NENT NDAs. The site adjacent to NDH, which has an area of approximately 30 000 square meters, could facilitate the future expansion of NDH to provide additional beds and increase the service capacity when such a need arises. The medical services as well as the number and type of beds to be provided will be planned according to the prevailing demand.
(3) KTN and FLN NDAs will provide a total of about 60 000 new flats. The ratio of public to private housing for the KTN and FLN NDAs would generally maintain at about 60:40 to ensure a balanced and socially integrated community. About 39 ha of land in KTN and FLN NDAs have been reserved for subsidised housing, providing about 36 600 subsidised housing units. In order to enhance the flexibility, about 33 ha of the land are reserved for public rental housing/home ownership scheme (PRH/HOS) use or a mix of them, providing about 31 700 flats. The mix of PRH and HOS units within individual sites could be further determined by the Transport and Housing Bureau at the time of implementation of the developments taking account of the demand. The remaining about 6 ha of land are reserved for HOS development which could supply about 4 900 flats.
(4) According to the information from the Food and Health Bureau, to increase the supply of public niches, the Government has been promoting the district-based columbarium development scheme. In this connection, we have identified 24 potential sites in 18 districts for columbarium development. Whether these 24 potential sites could eventually be used for developing columbarium facilities will depend on the results of the technical feasibility studies or traffic impact assessments (where applicable). Upon completion of the relevant studies, we will consult the relevant District Councils (DCs) before going firm on developing the sites for columbarium use. Subject to the support of DCs and the Legislative Council for the projects currently under planning, the supply of new niches will cumulatively increase to hundreds of thousands by 2031. No more land in KTN and FLN NDAs has been reserved for columbarium facilities.
While the Government is making every effort to increase columbarium facilities to meet public demand, we are taking steps to promote "green burial" and encourage community acceptance of this more environmentally friendly and sustainable means of disposal of human ashes. Our work includes constructing new gardens of remembrance, providing free ferry service for the public, launching Internet Memorial Service for paying tribute to the deceased on the Internet, and stepping up public education, with a view to foster a change in mindset and culture to encourage community acceptance of "green burial" as one of the mainstream approaches.
Rising to the challenges posed by the scarcity of land resources, we see a case for encouraging public deliberations on new and unconventional measures to sustain the supply of niches to meet demand. These include setting limits on worship periods during the Ching Ming and Chung Yeung Festivals, and introducing time-limited (but renewable) terms for occupation of newly allocated niches.
(5) According to the Food and Health Bureau, at present, there are seven licensed funeral parlours in Hong Kong. These funeral parlours provide more than 130 funeral halls with an average usage rate of about 70%.
To meet future demand, the Government plans to develop public funeral services in the Sandy Ridge cemetery. The site will be able to accommodate a funeral parlour (providing about 30 funeral halls), as well as other crematorium and columbarium facilities. It will allow us to provide one-stop service at Sandy Ridge to meet the medium and long term demand. The project is expected to be completed by phases from 2022 onwards. No more land in KTN and FLN NDAs has been reserved for funeral parlour.
(6) No land has been reserved in KTN and FLN NDAs for waste management facilities. Notwithstanding this, the Preliminary Feasibility Study on Developing the New Territories North, commenced in January this year, would include assessments on the demand and feasibility of developing modern waste management facilities in the areas, such as refuse transfer station, recycling centre, food waste treatment facility, waste incineration facility etc.
(7) According to the information from the Environmental Protection Department, the existing NENT Landfill is expected to be exhausted in a few years. To cope with the continuing demand for waste disposal services in the northern-eastern part of the territory as well as the entire region of Hong Kong, the Government has been proposing the NENT Landfill Extension project to the southeast of the existing NENT Landfill. The NENT Landfill Extension covers about 70 ha of land (including 38 ha of land locating within the boundary of the existing NENT Landfill and 32 ha of additional land), providing about 19 million cubic metres of landfill capacity. However, the above piece of land does not fall into KTN and FLN NDAs.
(8) No land has been reserved in KTN and FLN NDAs for centralised quarantine centre for live poultry. According to the Food and Health Bureau, at present, all live poultry supplied to Hong Kong markets (including local and imported ones) are subject to stringent inspection and quarantine procedures. Before leaving the farms, poultry ready for sale must be quarantined for five days and pass both the avian influenza (AI) Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test and the serological test to show that they have an adequate level of H5 antibodies and are not carrying any AI virus (including H5 and H7 sub-types) or having any AI clinical symptoms.
For chickens kept on local farms, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) officers will collect their tissue and blood samples on site for AI tests by AFCD's Veterinary Laboratory. Only when the test results are found satisfactory will the AFCD Senior Veterinary Officer concerned issue a blood test certificate and poultry transportation authorisation for the consignment of chickens, which can then be delivered to the Cheung Sha Wan Temporary Wholesale Poultry Market (Wholesale Market).
All live poultry imported into Hong Kong must come from registered farms in the Mainland. The relevant Mainland entry-exit inspection and quarantine authorities will conduct AI tests for live poultry on these farms and issue animal health certificates to consignments of live poultry with satisfactory test results before they are delivered to Man Kam To Animal Inspection Station (Man Kam To). The Centre for Food Safety of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department will once again collect tissue and blood samples from live poultry at Man Kam To for AI tests by AFCD's Veterinary Laboratory. To safeguard public health, the consignments of live poultry will only be delivered from the Wholesale Market to the retail outlets after test results are available.
The above testing arrangements have been operating smoothly in the past years. The Government has no plan to separately set up a central poultry quarantine centre. Notwithstanding this, on January 27, 2014, the Government confirmed a number of positive samples tested with H7 PCR test in batch of live chickens imported from a registered farm in Guangdong. In response to the requests of the poultry trade, the Government is actively exploring the feasibility of the separate holding of imported and local live poultry before the AI test results are available.
Ends/Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Issued at HKT 15:00