Suggestions on the "Sustainable Lantau Blueprint"

Author:: East Lantau Metropolis Task Force


China Real Estate Chamber of Commerce Hong Kong and International Chapter
Suggestions on the "Sustainable Lantau Blueprint"

 

After the Hong Kong SAR Government has updated "Hong Kong 2030+: Towards a Planning Vision and Strategy Transcending 2030" ("Hong Kong 2030+"), the “Sustainable Lantau Blueprint” (the “Blueprint”) was announced earlier, it maps out the future direction of “Development in the North, Conservation for the South” for Lantau; the Blueprint also outlines various measures including economic, housing and entertainment developments in North Lantau, while the predominant part of Lantau, would be for conservation with sustainable leisure and recreational uses, as well as creating artificial islands by reclamation for the East Lantau Metropolis development as long-term strategic growth area, so as to capitalize on the opportunities arising from the development of the Bay Area to provide land for housing, commercial, retail, hotel, recreation and tourism, high value-added logistics and storage purposes. It also aims to create development opportunities for a more balanced spatial development pattern for the territory.

Our Chapter has studied the Blueprint, and exhibits our support in response to the planning vision of “Balancing Development and Conservation”. In respect of conservation, the Government has a relative comprehensive proposal of the nature and cultural conservation in North Lantau and conservation in the South. We express our appreciation and support. In terms of development, we still have doubt and more suggestions on that. In view of this, our Chapter takes this opportunity to reaffirm Hong Kong’s long-term positioning, and express our views on the regional positioning and development strategy of Lantau, thereby proposing our views and the five recommendations subsequently on the future Lantau development for the Government and the public’s information and discussion.

 

  1. Hong Kong’s Positioning in A Macro Perspective

 

Our Chapter has announced “China Real Estate Chamber of Commerce Hong Kong and International Chapter:  "Hong Kong 2030+" Submission Report” in May, in which we stated clearly that the long-term positioning of Hong Kong should be a leading global metropolis. Hong Kong needs to strengthen itself as an international city that leads the world in many respects, such as becoming the “talent pool”, “capital pool” and “deal/transaction pool” of the world. For a long time, Hong Kong has long been one of the major trading ports and an international financial centre, giving it leading positions in numerous areas. And Hong Kong has always been the primary choice for multinational companies to establish their regional headquarters in the Asia Pacific region. In addition, Hong Kong has attracted and is managing a massive quantum of capital from all over the globe as well as many international talents. In the face of the increasingly intense global competition, with the rise of mainland China, the demand for foreign activities are increasing. While China needs to “go global”, other countries want to “come in”, leveraging on the locational and systematic advantages, Hong Kong can become a “Resources Hub” for the world marketplace. Furthermore, the Belt and Road and Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area initiatives, together with the development of China overseas investments will be the lasting driving force pushing forward Hong Kong’s economic development. Taking advantages of the abovementioned opportunities, Hong Kong’s status as international financial, transportation and trade centres could be further enhanced as well as strengthened its status as an international asset management centre. There will be more talent coming to Hong Kong, more multinational companies coming to set up their regional headquarters, and more capital flowing into Hong Kong. Thereby, it is only a matter of time for Hong Kong to become a megacity with population over 10 million.

 

  1.  Regional Positioning for Lantau

 

As the strategic positioning of Lantau proposed in the Blueprint, it has CRECCHKI’s endorsement and support. “The Framework Agreement on Deepening Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Co-operation in the Development of the Bay Area” (the “Framework”) has signed in Hong Kong on 1 July 2017, the Bay Area is poised to be a world-class Bay Area and Metropolitan Cluster, Hong Kong, Guangdong and Macao will even be connected more closely, cultivating more comprehensive co-operation. Lantau will no longer be a mere remote island at the west end of Hong Kong, rather becoming a confluence of the Greater Pearl River Delta (PRD) transport network as well as a double gateway to the world and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area (the Bay Area). Leveraging on the locational advantage, Lantau is the key node where international, regional and local talents, visitors and goods flow and converge. Therefore, it’s necessary to make strategic connectivity of various areas in Lantau (especially HKIA and the proposed East Lantau Metropolis (ELM) under Hong Kong 2030+) and the traditional CBDs, container terminals, Kai Tak Terminal and other districts in order to reach the most synergy effects out of it, so to maintain Hong Kong’s long term overall competitiveness at the top of the world.

 

Speaking in part, with rich diversity of resources, Lantau possesses not only a wealth of historic & cultural heritage and well-preserved traditions but also many natural landscape like extensive country parks, wetlands, and the proposed marine parks to be developed in the future, this is very beneficial for Hong Kong to promote its tourism. In a macro view, Lantau is a place where offers huge potential, with a view to developing Lantau into a quality community for living by providing new opportunities associated with land and housing supply for the long-term development of Hong Kong. More importantly, Lantau has full potential to develop the Third Central Business District (CBD3) of Hong Kong, the CBD3 at the ELM may offer a sustainable green smart community with innovation and technology integrated for living, not only bringing development opportunities, but also could help create a more balanced development pattern in Hong Kong. Therefore, the development of Lantau is the key contributing to Hong Kong’s long-term socio-economic development.

Currently, the two major challenges facing the social and economic development of Hong Kong is the rapid greying population and land shortage. The former can be alleviated and resolved generally by population control measures, for instance, we can encourage fertility coupled with measures that relax population policy, which include attracting talent, relaxing “Mobile Residents” control. Nonetheless, the effectiveness of these population controls would be eventually constrained by the problems arising from shortfall of land, whilst housing problem would be the biggest hurdle. The average living area per capita is very minimal in Hong Kong[1], not to mention its least affordable home prices among the world, this affecting the childbearing willingness of Hong Kong people directly[2].

Hong Kong’s liveability and “Happiness Index” also lower its attraction to international talent indirectly. After all, land shortage remains the biggest threat for Hong Kong’s long-term development, hence it’s our Achilles’ heel. Therefore, land supply is not only the primary condition for Hong Kong’s long-term development, but a sine qua non. The Government has to pull out all the stops to achieve a sufficient level of land supply for the social and economic development, so to meet the global standard for the future average living area per capita with better liveability in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s long-term positioning and the strategic positioning of Lantau in the above mentioned is where it leads to the following recommendations.  

Recommendation 1: The Development Area of East Lantau Metropolis (the ELM) Should Achieve Above 2000 ha

As mentioned in the previous context, Hong Kong will become a Megacity with a population over 10 million. Hong Kong’s population is projected to grow until reaching a peak of 8.22 million in 2043, it’s only 870,000 more compared to the existing 7.35 million[3]. In our opinion, if the Government’s planning formulation of various developments is only based on the consideration of the above projected population 8.22 million to anticipate the land shortfall of only 1,200 ha in the long run against the estimated land requirement and announced to the public that the potential developable area of the ELM is about 1,000 ha, we are afraid that this would be too conservative. Therefore, such a stop-gap mentality taken by the Government would cap future Hong Kong’s overall development. Rather, the Government should have a more forward-looking thinking to face the land shortage problem, take into account that, Hong Kong may have a potential to become a Megacity, whilst should provide appropriate proposals and guidelines in an aggressive approach for the society and the citizens. As a potential Megacity in the future, the Hong Kong resident population would be as high as 10 million, in addition to the possible hundreds of thousands even over a million of “Mobile Residents” whether who are temporary working population or transients, thus more land supply is required for Hong Kong’s long-term development. According to our Chapter’s preliminary estimates, there is at least 2000 ha of developable land is needed at the ELM with a capacity of accommodating population of about 1 million and creating employment of about 500,000 as the planning aim. (The views of Hong Kong’s long-term development land production strategy are compiled in Appendix 1.

 

Recommendation 2: Transport and Ancillary Infrastructure Facilities Are of The Priority consideration for the Implementation of Various Developments.

The development of transport networks is of strategic importance to new town development. Although the construction of railway and road systems in North Lantau is proposed in the Blueprint, and indicates that water transport is considered with a view to enhancing internal connection and accessibility of Lantau, but stopped short of more details. We suggest that the Government should avoid the same mistake by not starting the development and implementation of transport networks only after the residents’ settling in for new town development, rather the proposal of the massive transit infrastructures should be provided as soon as possible with a precise timeframe to complement the connection between the Bay Area and various areas in Hong Kong (HKIA, Kai Tak Terminal, container terminals, the interconnectivity of the traditional CBDs) with the commissioning of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB) so to prevent from the constraints in regional development caused by its inefficient transportation.

 

What particularly draws our attention is, due to the fact that the Government has an ongoing study on the relevant planning of “North Lantau Corridor for Economic and Housing Development, Northeast Lantau Node for Leisure, Entertainment and Tourism Development” and launched numerous engagement exercises, the proposal of planning is considerably mature enough, so as a consensus has been reached from various sectors. In other words, the land planning of North Lantau and Northeast Lantau should be quite comprehensive, thus there should not be any much unplanned land left in the area. In view of this, the planning and development in the ELM is much of the importance amongst all. The ELM will provide all the land supply for Hong Kong beyond 2030, this not only could resolve the land shortage issue, at the same time, the ELM will become one of the strategic growth areas of Hong Kong so to create the third Central Business District (CBD3) complementing with the traditional CBD in Central and East Kowloon. Correspondingly, it’s necessary for the Government to speed up the design of the mass transit system linking the ELM, North Lantau, and the existing urban areas including the traditional CBDs with a forward-looking study to cater for the internal and external transportation connection needs for the 1 million population and the 500,000 labour force in the region, as well as synchronizing the paste of developing the artificial islands and the related transport system. At the same time, the Government should expedite the development proposal and implementation of the supporting facilities for the targeted 1 million population so as to lay a solid foundation for Lantau’s development. Only given the priority consideration to implement the development of traffic and transport and the supporting facilities before any other developments that the proposed ELM would not be isolated due to its inaccessibility.

 

Recommendation 3: Strategically Develop CBD3 of Hong Kong to Create Synergy Effect

The proposed CBD3 at the ELM needless to follow the same footprint of the traditional CBDs as financial industry focused, rather the CBD3 should strategically complement the traditional CBD, HKIA, container terminals, Kai Tak Terminal, exhibition and convention facilities and tourism facilities as same as complementing the traditional CBD in the Central and the CBD2 at Kowloon East so to create the most efficient synergy effect. We propose that the future ELM should focus on developing innovative and technology industry with a view to create the first strategic headquarters in the Asia Pacific region to further attract more multinational companies to set up global technique application headquarters, innovation and technology centres together with global communication hubs in Hong Kong to remain the world’s most competitive city, giving it leading positions in numerous areas.

 

 

Recommendation 4: Developing a Sustainable and Innovative Technology-Led Smart City for living

 

We are very supportive of the ELM being planned as a smart and resilient island with an environmental friendly approach. Building on this foundation, we hope that the Government can attach greater attention to promote innovation and technology integrated with future urban design principles and lifestyle all together. Currently, the majority of Hong Kongers are still not that familiar with the concept of smart city, they see it equally the same as the ubiquitous Wi-Fi networks. In fact, that is not the case, from smart home system development up to AI applications will promote smart city living and smart commerce, all these could not be separated from the development of future smart city. It’s difficult for us to foresee the future of smart city beyond 2030 arising from the ever-changing innovative technologies, but it’s not difficult for us to understand that land supply is the cornerstone of urban development. We propose the Government should adopt an innovative approach in the planning of land uses for smart city, and study for a land use management model involving greater flexibility to redefine better land uses with strategic development vision so to create the most effective land uses in a timely manner. As such, to better utilize the most precious land resources with a view to shape East Lantau as a smart community for living, work, business, leisure and study.

 

 

Recommendation 5: Conservation-Focused, Balancing Environmental Impacts

Our Chapter is highly supportive of the proposed “Balancing Development and Conservation” planning vision in the Blueprint, the development of Lantau must comply with the principle of sustainable development. Environmental factor, social factor and economic factor are the 3 major factors structuring the backbone of sustainable development which lie in the coordinated development, further interpretations of the 3 mentioned factors are, alleviating the burden of the environment, meeting the needs of mankind and being conducive to the economy respectively, hence promoting the overall development progress of the society. As mentioned earlier, the development of Lantau not only hinges the importance in Hong Kong’s long-term social and economic development, but also offering a solution to Hong Kong’s land shortage problem. Nonetheless, we must confront the environmental impacts brought by land development with a view of making all-out effort to eliminate the hazards imposed on the environment. During the planning stage, should the Government begin to conduct an environmental assessment the earliest possible on the potential reclamation projects and take forward the feasible implementation of the conservation initiatives, as such, the process should be transparent and the implementation of sustainable development is being ascertained so as to allay public concerns.

 

Conclusion

Land supply is crucial for Hong Kong’s long-term socioeconomic development so could the current housing problem be improved by land supply. If Hong Kong needs to enhance its status as an international city that leads the world, we need to maintain our competitiveness, having the determination for development as well as facing up to the land shortage problem of Hong Kong. For the long-term well-being of Hong Kong, we support the Government’s to restart large-scale reclamation and strategically develop the ELM to meet the needs of the future growth population and long-term land supply. In sum, in the context of the ELM, our five recommendations are as follows: (1) The development area of East Lantau Metropolis (the ELM) should achieve above 2000 ha with a capacity of accommodating  population of about 1 million and creating employment of about 500,000; (2) Transport and ancillary infrastructure facilities are of the priority consideration for the implementation of various developments; (3) Strategically develop the ELM as CBD3 of Hong Kong to create synergy effect; (4) Promote innovative technology, integrated with urban design principles and lifestyle to make the ELM a smart city for living; (5) Development and conservation are not mutually exclusive, all-out effort should be made to coordinate and balance the environment from negative impacts. The above views are our collective advocacy statement, should you have any questions, we welcome further discussions. We request serious consideration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix 1: Hong Kong’s Long-Term Development Land Production

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, Hong Kong may possibly become a Megacity with population over 10 million, land supply is the necessary condition for Hong Kong’s long-term development and hence we suggest that the Government should restart large-scale reclamation projects so to strategically develop the ELM to meet the needs of future population growth and the long-term supply of land. Therefore, tapping into the opportunities of regional development is the external momentum for Hong Kong’s long-term land supply. In the past decade, the continuous land shortage and slow supply breeds numerous social problems such as the spirally soaring home prices and rents, the unaffordability of property prices to the majority of people, the increasingly worsened living environment and quality of life, the adverse impacts of increasing operating cost on the ease of business environment. A good deal of resistance is gradually brought about by the problems addressed the above to the long-term economic development of Hong Kong. Given the abovementioned internal factors, sizeable development land production is necessary and pressing for Hong Kong. We recommend the Government should promote extensive large-scale development land production strategy duly for the well-being of the future generations in order to meet the positioning and development needs of Hong Kong in the long run.

 

The long-term sizable development land production strategy should be designed with the sole objectives of improving the living environment, enhancing quality of life, and enhancing the business environment significantly for the people of Hong Kong. We suggest the Government, on the one hand, should offer different enterprises, institutions and organizations reasonable prices of land and properties for business operation, on the other hand, ensure working people from different sectors of the community to enjoy a decent living environment so to furnish happy living and work and enhance quality of life, while enabling the young and entrepreneurs having plenty of opportunities to be dreamcatchers and create their future. It is our wish that Hong Kong will become a global leading city, which is full of hopes and fascination through the engagement of large-scale development land production.

 

One of the important tasks for the long-term large-scale development land production, is to resolve the limited average living space per capita problem. Currently, Hong Kong people’s average living area per capita is only 15 square metre, the smallest living area among other neighbouring major cities, it’s a pity that this phenomenon is getting worse. The concerns brought by the addressed issue are, the future Hong Kong may not be attractive enough to quality talents and brain drain in younger generation may occur with rising blames. We propose that the average living area per capita could reach 30 square metre in the future, doubling the current amount. We hope to bring up a vision to Hong Kong, that is to double the amount of the average living area per capita in 30 years. It is only when the citizens of Hong Kong live and work happily that Hong Kong may keep enjoying its sustainable prosperity after.

 

In view of promoting the “doubling the average living area per capita” initiative and based on Planning Department’s statistical data, we subsequently, could preliminarily estimate the needs for Hong Kong’s long-term land supply.  Residential land use covers about 7% of Hong Kong’s total land area[4] (1,100 square kilometres), there is a need to increase 77 square kilometre for new residential land. Whilst this additional 77 square kilometre, it includes the average living area per capita of redevelopment, urban renewal and new build homes. More importantly, while increasing land for residential use, it’s also crucial to facilitate other supporting land in support of the needs of commercial, employment, living, transportation and public services. Currently, the existing residential land and the corresponding supporting land[5] ratio in Hong Kong is 1:1.5. This ratio, in our opinion, could be reduced to 1:1 because most of the supporting land uses may have already been provided in other areas of the city. We therefore propose the Government should consider to create additional supporting land of 77 square kilometres, which combined with the 77 square kilometres of residential land would come up to a total of 154 square kilometres. This figure should be considered as the minimum goal when formulating the long-term development land production. Even so, the above estimation has not taken into consideration of Hong Kong’s future population growth, practically speaking, we hold that the long-term need for land supply in Hong Kong requires more. Be it the target of “doubling the average living area per capita” would be achieved in the coming 20 to 30 years’ time or not, we are uncertain but hope for the earliest progress possible. The 3 main reasons are as follows:

 

 

  1. Given the rising trends of property prices in Hong Kong, subdivided units and “nanometre flats” have become increasingly prevalent, so do thousands accommodate themselves in industrial buildings. In view of the above, the alarmed situation of the living environment and the social pressure being triggered in Hong Kong now is about or even over the problematic situation happened in the 60s and 70s. Over that period of time, Hong Kong’s population has increased 28%. Due to the inadequate housing supply for the growing population, as a result surging of squatted houses. Many vulnerable residents are jeopardized in such poor living conditions, without a liveable habitat was a time bomb which posed a big threat to the social stability. The British Hong Kong Government announced a Ten-year Housing Programme in 1973 which targeted to provide self-contained accommodation for 1.8 million people, this enlightened the entire society with hopes. In line with the same logic in the past, it would be very encouraging if the HKSAR Government could aggressively propose a long-term development land production strategy at the present time with the view of promoting the “doubling the average living area per capita” initiative in the coming 20 to 30 years’ time, most of the Hong Kong residents (especially the younger generation) would be enlightened with new hopes.  

 

  1. In the face of the increasingly intense global competition, Hong Kong should catch up with retaining and attracting talent. Under the global competition, quality talents nowadays demand lot more qualities in live other than just being satisfied with high income and successful career development. For example, living environment, quality of life, fostering a happy family-style, ancillary facilities of the community, etc. In a wider context, if we can turn around the declining living environment condition and the rising standard of living situation, with the advantages of Hong Kong’s competitive edge in various aspects, it is quite confident that the attractiveness of Hong Kong to international talent will increase as well as strengthening and enhancing the sustainable competitiveness of Hong Kong as a whole.

                                                    

  1. It is believed that the proposal and implementation of facilitating the long-term land production strategy will bring a strong mitigation guiding power of easing high property prices and rents supported by the sufficient supply of land in the future. Hence, curbing the current price and rental levels as a result of improving the living space environment and quality of life as well as maintaining reasonable operating costs while enhancing business start-ups and the business environment in order to stimulate the economic development of Hong Kong by attracting more foreign enterprises.

 

In the context of producing more land, we can achieve this through restarting large-scale reclamation, expediting the process of rezoning land uses in order to release the land reserve of private land owners in the short-medium-term. Meanwhile, optimizing the production of developable land by adopting a multi-pronged approach, enabling a significant improvement and enhancement of Hong Kong’s living environment.

 

[End]

 

[1] According to the statistical data from the Government, as at end March 2015, the average living area of PRH tenants is 13 square metre per person, while the average living area of private housing residents is about 20 square metre per person.

[2] A survey conducted on 5 April 2017 by Hong Kong Women Development Association Limited showed, interviewees expressed the main reasons of refusing childbearing/family-building are of financial burden, limited space of living and long working hours.

[3] Hong Kong’s population is 7,346,700, approximately 7.35 million according to an updated set of population projection released by the Census and Statistics Department on August 11, 2016.

[4] According to Planning Department’s statistical data, Residential land use covers about 7% of Hong Kong’s total land area (77 square kilometre), whilst 3.2% (35 square kilometre) is village housing and temporary structures (Rural Settlement)  If the future development land production strategy is formulated in accordance with the population density of non-rural settlement with a view of catering for the need of “doubling the average living area per capita” initiative,  as such, it would be more precise to anticipate (with better efficiency) for development land production area.

[5] According to Planning Department’s statistical data, different classes of land use include Commercial/Business and office (0.4%), Industrial Land (0.6%), Industrial Estates (0.3%), Government, Institutional and Community Facilities (2.3%), Open Space (2.3%), Roads (3.6%), Railways (0.3%), and Utilities (0.7%), total sum is 10.5% of Hong Kong’s land utilization, it’s about 1.5 times of the land use for Residential.

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