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LCQ12: Population projection and land demand
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     Following is a question by the Hon Kam Nai-wai and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (February 22):

Question:

     The Government announced 25 proposed sites for reclamation outside the Victoria Harbour and consulted the public on the policy on developing land and enhancing land supply to meet, among others, the future needs for infrastructure and housing in Hong Kong.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the Hong Kong population projections for 2011 which were made by the authorities in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006; the discrepancies between such figures and the actual population in 2011; the reasons for the discrepancies, and whether they have conducted reviews and introduced improvement in respect of the discrepancies in such projections;

(b) of the Hong Kong population projections for 2030 which were made by the authorities in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006; the respective differences in results between each projection and the one immediately preceding it, and the reasons for such differences;

(c) of the respective percentages of permanent and non-permanent residents of Hong Kong in the population of 8.9 million people projected for 2039 by the authorities at present; the monitoring system and examination measures put in place by the Government to prevent over-development of land (including reclamation and over-development which cause unnecessary damages to the natural environment and ecology) due to serious errors in the estimation of future population;

(d) of the area and percentage of developed land in the 1 100 square kilometres of land in Hong Kong at present; the respective numbers of the lots used for public and private housing as well as commercial, industrial and agricultural purposes, and their respective areas and percentages in the area of brownfield sites; the number of industrial and agricultural sites among them which may be developed into sites for housing or commercial purposes; among the greenfield sites, the respective areas of sites which are subject to the Country Parks Ordinance (Cap. 208) and the regulations for special areas, as well as respective percentages of such areas in the total land area in Hong Kong; the number of remaining greenfield sites which are not subject to the Country Parks Ordinance or the regulations for special areas, the respective percentages of the areas of such sites in the total land area in Hong Kong, and the possible purposes of development for such sites;

(e) whether the authorities have conducted any comprehensive assessment of the land demand in Hong Kong, the territory-wide land-use planning and the progress of land development, e.g. development of long-abandoned quarries, idle government, rural and industrial sites (including former government quarters, vacant school premises and community facilities as well as expired short-term tenancy sites, etc.), as well as the remaining areas for development in Tung Chung, the new towns in the Northeast New Territories, North Lantau, Sham Tseng/Tsuen Wan and the frontier closed areas, etc.; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; whether they have studied the development of existing greenfield sites to enhance land supply; and

(f) whether it has conducted any comprehensive study covering all aspects of society in Hong Kong on the various benefits and costs (e.g. employment, economic activities, construction costs and environmental costs, etc. arising from development projects) of reclamation vis-j-vis those of developing dry land, so as to compare the overall benefits and costs between the two approaches; if it has, of the details, and whether it will make public the outcome and information of the study?

Reply:

President,

     The Government is currently conducting a public engagement exercise on enhancing land supply strategy with a view to consulting the public on reclamation on an appropriate scale outside Victoria Harbour and rock cavern development and establishing the site selection criteria.  During the consultation process, some opined that the preliminary site criteria were too abstract and sought specific examples of reclamation sites to facilitate public discussion.  Having reviewed Hong Kong's shoreline and excluded severely constrained sites unsuitable for reclamation, we proposed 25 possible reclamation sites to facilitate the public's consideration of the site selection criteria from social, economic and environmental perspectives in accordance with the sustainability principle.  To date, the Government has yet to reach a decision on the proposal for reclamation outside Victoria Harbour and the site selection criteria.  The types and sites of reclamation are also subject to changes in the light of public opinion.  In the next step, we will consider the public's views on reclamation, formulate the site selection criteria and identify possible sites before further consulting the public, and the local communities and organisations concerned.  We aim to identify about 10 reclamation sites for detailed feasibility study and further public consultation.

     My reply to the various parts of the question, having consolidated the information provided by the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD), is as follows:

(a) and (b): The C&SD published population projections in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2007, using the base populations of 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2006 respectively.  The differences between the projected 2011 population in these population projection series and the actual population figure in mid-2011, and between the current population projection for 2030 and the previous projections are tabulated in Annex 1.

     In compiling each series of population projections, the C&SD had taken into consideration the latest population, social and economic development conditions and the local trends in fertility, mortality and migration patterns.  The differences between projections and the actual population were mainly due to unexpected changes in the trends of population, social and economic development of Hong Kong in different periods.

     Since 2000, the C&SD has updated the population projections at intervals of two to three years, taking into account the latest population, social and economic development conditions.  As shown in the information above, each successive update in population projections would further narrow the differences with the actual population figures.

(c) In 2010, the C&SD projected on the basis of the latest 2009-based population data that the 2039 population would reach 8.89 million.  In other words, our population is projected to grow at an average annual rate of 0.8% for the next 30 years, which is lower than the actual average annual growth rate of 1.1% for the past 30 years.  This population projection has not differentiated between Hong Kong Permanent Residents and Hong Kong Non-permanent Residents.

     Our population projection methodology, which is internationally approved, applies appropriate statistical projection methods and makes reference to the latest population, social and economic development conditions, the latest trends in fertility, mortality and migration patterns, and input from the relevant bureaux and departments on the various assumptions of the population projection exercise.  Moreover, as mentioned in paragraphs (a) and (b) above, the C&SD will update the population figures according to the actual conditions from time to time to minimise errors in the population projections.

     Implementing any developments, whether they be developments on land or reclamation projects, require a relatively long lead time for preparation work, including going through the statutory procedures, undertaking technical and environmental impact assessments and public consultation.  At the preparatory stage, the projects are subject to continuous evaluation in the light of the latest conditions to assess their justifications and urgency.  The projects would be planned and implemented in an orderly manner.  As such, there would not be excessive development of land that would infringe the public interest and endanger the natural and ecological environment of Hong Kong.

(d) The total land area of Hong Kong measures about 1 108 square kilometres, which can be divided into built-up and non-built-up land.  The respective areas of the various sites mentioned in the question are as follows:

(i) The built-up area measures about 263 square kilometres, representing 23.7% of the total land area in Hong Kong.  There is no statistics on the number of land lots used for various purposes.  Agricultural land is not classified as built-up land. (Annex 2)

(ii) The non-built-up land measures about 845 square kilometres and accounts for about 76.3% of the total land area in Hong Kong. (Annex 3)

     It is worth noting that the remaining non-built-up land is mainly wetland, wetland conservation areas, wetland buffer areas, water gathering grounds, hilly land, slopes and woodland, etc. that cannot be or is not suitable for development and are subject to various development constraints.  As far as the development of the agricultural lands is concerned, most of these lands are privately owned with fragmented ownership, and are lack of infrastructures.  To meet the demand for development, we have identified agricultural lands with higher potential for planning and development, including parts of the land in the North East New Territories New Development Areas and Hung Shui Kiu New Development Area (NDA).  We will also actively explore other available land including the ex-quarry sites, green belt areas that are devegetated, deserted or formed, as well as deserted agricultural land.

(e) Land demand is driven by population growth, economic development and public's aspiration for a better living environment.  Population growth will increase demand of land for housing and public facilities.  Economic development will increase the demand of land for commercial developments including offices and hotels.  Improving the living environment including lowering the development density, increasing open spaces and protecting the natural environment can only be materialised with more land.  With regard to land supply, the Government has assessed the supply under the existing land supply options (including resumption, redevelopment, rezoning, re-use of ex-quarry sites).  We have reviewed all projects under implementation and planning stages, including property development projects above railway stations, urban renewal projects, revitalisation projects of industrial buildings, future land supply in the NDAs (including North East New Territories NDAs and Hung Shui Kiu NDA, the Kai Tak Development Area, Tung Chung and Tseung Kwan O) and rezoning of industrial sites, green belts and agricultural lands.  Among these, the NDAs, rezoning of green belts and agricultural lands will involve the development of the currently non-built-up land, which are affected by the problems of land resumption, clearance, fragmented ownership, conservation of heritage, cultural and ecology, etc.  It is difficult to ensure timely and sufficient supply of land to meet the demand.  Therefore, if we simply count on land development under the current land supply options, the long-term land demand of Hong Kong cannot be met and a land reserve can hardly be built up for Hong Kong.

(f) We have conducted preliminary assessments on the impacts of reclamation and other land development options arising from the social, economic and environmental aspects, and have made a broad analysis.  On the economic aspect, rezoning, redevelopment and resumption are all market driven with a high degree of uncertainties, whereas reclamation is suitable for building up a land reserve to alleviate the impact brought by economic cycles and the uncertainties in the market.  On the social aspect, rezoning, redevelopment and resumption will affect the existing community and economic activities which require decanting sites, whereas reclamation can provide the required land and solution space.  On the environment aspect, redevelopment will generate public fill, whereas reclamation can effectively collect the public fill.  The above information has been released in the public engagement activities and uploaded onto the website for the public engagement at www.landsupply.hk. As for the benefits and costs of specific reclamation and land development projects, the assessment can only be made after conducting detailed planning and engineering studies.  There is no comprehensive study at this stage.

Ends/Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Issued at HKT 15:16

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