The new Secretary for Development Michael Wong Wai-lun has said the government will not undertake large-scale destruction of country parks to build housing.
Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying had proposed developing land of low ecological value within the edges of country parks for public housing estates, non-profit-making elderly homes and other purposes.
In May, the government invited the not-for-profit Housing Society to study the feasibility of building affordable homes on the outskirts of Tai Lam and Ma On Shan Country Parks.
Wong said on Thursday the study is still ongoing and would take more than a year.
“The [study] on ecological conservation will take a few quarters,” he said. “We all know there are more than 40,000 hectares of country parks in Hong Kong. Now, the locations the Housing Society are working on – including Shui Chuen O [in Ma On Shan] and a location near the exit of the Tai Lam Tunnel – total around 40 hectares -smaller than a ratio of 1 to 1,000.”
“In other words, many conservationist friends are concerned about a large-scale destruction of country parks because of building flats – it will not happen.”
He added that the size of country parks would in fact increase.
“If I am not mistaken, Robin’s Nest will be listed as a country park – it is 500 hectares,” he said.
Robin’s Nest is located in northeastern Hong Kong, close to the border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen.
Wong also asked for patience as the government continues to seek land for housing plans.
He said the last administration has rezoned 210 housing sites in order to provide over 310,000 housing units, of which over 70 per cent are for public housing.
Earlier this year, it was announced that 26 of the 210 confirmed sites will provide 60,000 units – 80 per cent of which will be public housing. The plans include the postponed second and third phases of the controversial Wang Chau housing plan in Yuen Long.
“It may take ten to 13 years to develop a new area, [if] we wish to shorten the time, then we need cooperation from all sides,” Wong said.
For example, prefabricated modules for buildings could be used, he said, whilst stressing construction safety.
“[W]hen we go to the Legislative Council for funds, if we can get a decision sooner after [lawmakers] raise reasonable questions, then it may be faster,” he said.
“You asked if I have a magic wand, I must admit we don’t – in fact we are breaking rocks with a hammer, doing it step-by-step.”