Before we ask a developer to develop country parks, we should first agree the rules. The country parks are a special asset (寶貴資產) of Hong Kong. Any decision to make parks smaller must be taken very carefully. We have a law for creating parks. We have a law for managing parks. But we do not have a law that says how to cut parts off a country park.
We can learn from another special asset: Victoria Harbour. To do reclamation, you have to prove that there is a public overriding need, that there are no reasonable alternatives, and that only the minimum is taken away.
The same can be agreed for each country park with one additional rule - zero-net loss. This requires another area to be added as compensation (須提出補償方案).
In 1995 we did exactly this to build Route 3 to Yuen Long. Instead of digging a road through Tai Lam Country Park, we decided to limit the damage by building a tunnel. In the end only 2 hectares were lost for the approach road. And an area of around 40 ha. was added to the park elsewhere. In 2003, the extension of the Tseung Kwan O landfill was carefully planned to have minimal impact on the Clearwater Bay Country Park, and again another piece of land was found which could be added as compensation.
Carrie Lam has promised to set up a task force (專責小組) of planning, engineering, architectural and environmental professionals to engage stakeholders and to review our land supply options (檢討土地供應選項).
This task force can also be asked to propose principles and rules, and to consult the community first. CY Leung’s strategy of pre-selecting two country park areas (事先選定兩個郊野公園) and asking a developer – the Housing Society (房協) – to study the development potential sets an unacceptable precedent (定立了壞先例) and puts Hong Kong’s country parks at risk forever. Let’s hope Carrie Lam will turn this around.