Dr Jonathan CHOI Koon-shum (Chairman of the 50th terms of office) October 2018
It is imperative for the HKSAR Government to increase land supply in the short, medium and long terms through optimal use of existing land resources and expansion of developable land space on many fronts to provide sustainable and stable land supply to drive Hong Kong’s development in the long run.
Hong Kong has been plagued by land shortage for years, causing considerable impact on people’s livelihood, business operations, and economic sustainability. It is an issue of serious concern to CGCC and we have submitted our opinions on the Policy Address to the HKSAR Government earlier and provided feedback directly to the Task Force on Land Supply. We hope the authorities would adopt a multi-pronged approach to speed up the release of unused land resources in addition to increasing new land reserves via public-private partnerships (PPP) and reclamation. Moreover, given new development opportunities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area (Bay Area), Hong Kong can explore coordinated resource usage with Bay Area cities and work together to build a sustainable land supply model.
Developing idle agricultural land under the PPP model
While housing supply and demand imbalance continues to push up property prices, the industrial and commercial sector is also concerned that Hong Kong’s high rents are adding substantially to business operating costs. It inevitably reduces the desire of overseas organizations to locate in Hong Kong, and in turn undermines Hong Kong’s overall competitiveness.
One feasible solution to the pressing issues is to adopt the PPP model to release about 1,000 hectares of agricultural land in the New Territories held by major developers. In our view, the HKSAR Government can establish a fair, open and transparent mechanism to process applications flexibly and provide appropriate infrastructure facilities to expedite the release of idle agricultural land for other purposes. Excluding land lots earmarked for public housing that developers have agreed to build for the Government, the remaining land resources can be used for private housing developments or partially allocated for industrial and commercial properties.
Reclaim land to increase long-term reserves
In the medium to long term, the HKSAR Government must focus on developing land reserves, and reclamation is the most appropriate and practical approach for Hong Kong. Reclamation neither involves resumption of private land nor resettlement of existing residents, and the latest reclamation technology can reduce the impact on nearby water quality and ecology.
Since 2001, reclamation projects have almost come to a complete halt, resulting in serious delay in land supply for years. To reverse the current situation, the Government should explore the possibility of reclamation in inshore areas outside Victoria Harbour. They should also study the feasibility of building artificial islands in the central waters as soon as possible to kick off the "East Lantau Metropolis". As infrastructure projects come into operation in the future, the artificial islands will help strengthen connection and encourage cross-border interaction in the Bay Area to strengthen Lantau’s strategic position as a “double gateway” that links the Greater PRD and the world.
Regional collaboration to overcome resource constraints
As the Bay Area further integrates, Hong Kong can ride on this new wave to overcome existing land constraints and bring coordinated development into play with other cities in the area. Not only will it help Hong Kong’s port industry shift some capacity and expand development space, but it will also enable Hong Kong to develop supporting professional services to shape the Bay Area into a high value-added shipping centre in Asia Pacific.
In addition, the governments of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau can consider building waste incinerators on uninhabited islands to free up valuable land resources for more effective development plans. Measures like these will help improve the quality of regional environment to build a high quality common living circle.
In summary, land shortage has imposed many constraints on economic development and people’s livelihood. In the interest of the society at large, it is imperative for the HKSAR Government to increase land supply in the short, medium and long terms through optimal use of existing land resources and expansion of developable land space on many fronts to provide sustainable and stable land supply to drive Hong Kong’s development in the long run.