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Agricultural resite policy allows farmers to live in clusters

     A Government spokesman today (February 22) said that the Administration was willing to discuss with Choi Yuen Tsuen villagers on how villagers affected by the Express Rail Link project might continue to farm through the existing agricultural resite policy.

     "The existing agricultural resite policy allows interested villagers to continue farming collectively.  In fact, some registered villagers who were granted ex-gratia cash allowance and verified as genuine farmers are planning to live in clusters and farm together by virtue of the agricultural resite policy.

     "The Administration has been following their cases closely and is prepared to provide assistance to them within the framework of the existing policy and the ex-gratia rehousing package.  We will do our best to assist other affected villagers in the same manner," said the spokesman.

     The purpose of the agricultural resite policy was to assist genuine farmers affected by clearance to erect structures for domestic purpose in the vicinity of their farmland.  Eligible persons would be issued Short Term Waivers to erect domestic structures on the farmland.  

     Eligible villagers, who also owned farm land would be offered ex-gratia land compensation, in addition to the ex-gratia cash allowance under the special ex-gratia rehousing package.  The Administration was assessing agricultural products and facilities with a view to offering the allowance soonest possible to facilitate villagers to make relocation arrangements.
     In addition, any genuine farmers or persons who intend to devote to farming production might apply for loan fund from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

     On procedures, the Government had already made the most flexible arrangements for the affected villagers.  For instance, in general an agricultural resite applicant needed to be verified as a genuine farmer and, at the same time, submitted a feasible farming plan providing information such as the location of the replacement agricultural site.

     The Administration understood that the affected villagers might not be able to find replacement sites in a short period of time to continue farming and submit their farming plans to the relevant department for examining their feasibility.  Therefore, the application procedures were divided into two parts.  The applicant might locate a private agricultural site and submit a farming plan to the authorities concerned for approval after he or she was verified as a genuine farmer.

     The Administration also understood that some villagers needed cash to pay for the deposit for their new homes or replacement farming sites.  Villagers who were granted the ex-gratia cash allowance might contact the Lands Department at any time to arrange for early collection of the cash allowance, so that they could sign the sale and purchase agreement immediately.

     "Any affected villagers planning to apply for the Special Assistance should register with the Lands Department by February 28, 2010 so that the Government can verify their eligibility.  If villagers intend to continue farming, we suggest that they should apply for agricultural resite at the same time," the spokesman stressed.

     The spokesman also said the Government visited villagers many times to explain to them different options of rehousing and compensation arrangements under the special ex-gratia rehousing package and existing policy.  To make it more convenient for villagers to register and enquire, a one-stop information centre was also set up in Choi Yuen Tsuen.  The Government also distributed newsletters to the residents to explain the details of the special ex-gratia rehousing package, set out frequently asked questions and answers, and present sample cases in which the ex-gratia cash allowance was granted (please see the annex).

     As at February 20, over 140 households in Choi Yuen Tsuen, a majority of the households, had registered with the Lands Department.  Applications from about 30 households had been processed.  Two of them had collected the ex-gratia cash allowance before the Chinese New Year, while other villagers who were granted the ex-gratia cash allowance might contact the Lands Department at any time to arrange for collection of the cash allowance.  The remaining applications were being processed, and villagers would be notified of the results of their applications in due course.

Ends/Monday, February 22, 2010
Issued at HKT 22:56


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