Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Leung Still Bulldozing Ahead

Tai Lam Chung Reservoir at Tai Lam Country Park
Even though Leung Chun-ying has five more months in office as Chief Executive of Hong Kong, he still insists on pushing through plans to develop protected country park land for public housing.

He has already instructed relevant government departments to carry out a preliminary study.

The latest news was revealed through the housing minister, who admitted that the administration's target of building 75,000 public housing flats within the five-year term could not be met because it was "not quite pragmatic".

How much land in Hong Kong is "lower in ecological value"?
Leung said he had decided to commission a feasibility study to "identify possible sites for non-profit-making use at the edge of country parks with lower ecological value" as the public demanded more details.

What does he mean by "lower in ecological value"? Does he think developing land on the edge of country parks makes it more OK than if it was within the country park?

It's like trying to say you're less guilty of eating a chocolate because you just nibbled the corners instead of popping the whole thing into your mouth.

"With this preliminary study, we will present as soon as possible the possible sites," he said.

Leung proposed that in exchange for building public flats and non-profit homes for the elderly on protected sites, the government would designate more areas of high conservation value in country parks.

An overview of Aberdeen Country Park
How do you decide which areas have more conservation value than others? Shouldn't they be protected equally?

Acting development minister Eric Ma Siu-cheung said yesterday at a Legislative Council meeting that the government hadn't started work on the proposal yet, but would "actively follow up" on it.

Former civil service minister Joseph Wong Wing-ping said it was unlikely the study would be completed within five months, and that the next government had no obligation to follow up, but that housing would continue to be a hot issue.

Wong instead suggested the next government should seriously consider prioritizing brownfield sites, some 1,200 hectares to develop, or large tracts of land leased cheaply to private clubs, such as the 170-hectare golf course in Fanling occupied by the Hong Kong Golf Club.

The latter idea has been floated before, resulting in pitting the rich against the poor and it's an ugly, bitter feud. But maybe we need to have this conversation.

Since Leung took office in 2012, his administration has only built about 51,000 public housing flats, well short of the 75,000 promised.

Brownfield sites are the way to go.

Hope someone's listening.

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