Artificial island or country park development? Hongkongers face hard housing choices, official says

Hongkongers might have to choose between building an artificial 1,000-hectare island in the middle of the sea or developing the city’s precious country parks to fulfil a long-term requirement for land, a senior planning official has said.

But Assistant Director of Planning Amy Cheung Yi-mei added the government had not made any plans to develop the preserved mountains and that such a possibility had been a “very low priority”.

Cheung made the comments at a meeting Monday with the Country and Marine Parks Board, an advisory body to the Country and Marine Parks Authority. At the meeting, members and government representatives discussed the city’s 2030 Plus blueprint, which lays out development beyond 2030.

The blueprint recommended building two new towns on reclaimed land off the east coast of Lantau Island – the East Lantau Metropolis project – and in the northern New Territories to resolve a long-term shortfall of 1,200 hectares of land for housing and economic development.

The East Lantau project, which entails reclamation of about 1,000 hectares of sea around two existing islands east of Lantau, has been heavily criticised by some as a“white elephant project”.

Cheung, however, defended it. “If we are able to develop the East Lantau Metropolis, we would not need to touch the country parks,” she said. “The public need to discuss this.”

But board member Dr Billy Hau Chi-hang, an ecologist at the University of Hong Kong, said the government should instead consider developing the city’s brownfield sites – abandoned agricultural land legally or illegally occupied by operations such as car parks, container storage and scrap yards – before talking about reclamation and developing country parks.

Cheung agreed that country parks were of high ecological value and said the government had not made any plans to develop the areas.

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