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LCQ15: Supply of columbarium niches

     Following is a question by the Hon Leung Kwok-hung and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (February 29):


     Regarding the supply of columbarium niches, will the Government inform this Council whether:

(a) it knows the total number of niches provided by the 32 private columbaria under Part A (i.e. private columbaria compliant with user restrictions in the land leases and the statutory town planning requirements and are not illegally occupying Government land) in the list of private columbaria updated by the Development Bureau (DevB) as at December 30, 2011, and the utilisation rate of such niches;

(b) it knows the total number of niches provided by the 66 private columbaria under Part B (i.e. other private columbaria known to the Lands Department and/ or Planning Department that do not fall under Part A) in the list of private columbaria updated by DevB as at December 30, 2011, and the utilisation rate of such niches;

(c) it has carried out any planning for the number of public niches to be supplied in the coming 10 years; if it has, of the details; and

(d) it has carried out any planning for the number of private niches to be supplied in the coming 10 years; if it has, of the details?



     Currently, there are eight public columbaria managed by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department providing about 167 900 public niches, with some 300 re-used public niches available each year for allotment to applicants on the waiting list.  A total of about 216 600 niches are provided and managed by the Board of Management of the Chinese Permanent Cemeteries, all of which have been allotted, with only a small number available for re-use.  Other cemeteries managed by the Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist and other religious bodies provide about 126 700 niches in total, of which some 34 000 are not yet allotted.  Besides, the Government also encourages the public to use more sustainable means of handling cremains and paying tribute to the deceased (such as scattering of cremains in Gardens of Remembrance (GoRs) or in designated Hong Kong waters as well as the Internet memorial service).

     In order to provide information on private columbaria made known to the relevant Government departments to the public in a more systematic manner and help the public make informed choices when purchasing niches, the Development Bureau (DEVB) published in December 2010 relevant land/ lease (user restrictions) and town planning information on the private columbaria made known to the Lands Department and Planning Department, and which the departments had reason to believe are operating as columbaria.  The information has been uploaded to the website of DEVB and will be updated quarterly, with the latest edition published on December 30, 2011.  My reply to the four parts of the question is as follows:

(a) and (b) There are established channels and procedures for private columbarium operators to apply to the departments or organisations concerned for columbarium development or regularisation of their operation (e.g. applying for the relevant planning permission and/ or lease modification, etc).  The Government does not have complete statistics on the niches provided by private columbaria at this moment.  For such planning applications submitted by operators recently, the number of niches under application or approved will be included in the Information on Private Columbaria (the Information).  Depending on the circumstances of each case, the number of niches (if any) that may be provided under the land leases etc. will also be included in the Information.  

(c) and (d) The construction of a public columbarium with a GoR at Kiu Tau Road of Wo Hop Shek will be completed in July 2012 to provide about 43 000 niches.  Also, the concept of district-based columbarium development projects has also received public support.  The Government has identified 24 potential sites in all 18 districts across the territory.  Of these, with the support of the relevant District Councils (DCs), the Diamond Hill Columbarium extension project is due for completion soon (providing 1 540 niches) whereas the Cheung Chau Cemetery extension project (providing 990 niches) will commence in early 2013 and is expected to complete by the end of 2013.  The Government is forging ahead with the technical feasibility studies or traffic impact assessment (where required) related to those remaining sites to ascertain their feasibility, before rolling out the consultation with the various DCs from the second quarter of 2012 onwards.  Subject to the support of DCs and the Legislative Council, it is estimated that together with the supply of Chinese Permanent Cemeteries, the Government will be able to provide more than 120 000 new niches in the coming five years (i.e. from 2012 to 2016), and the supply of new niches will cumulatively increase to hundreds of thousands in the medium and long term (i.e. from 2017 to 2031).  As for the supply of private columbarium niches, it will be determined by the market demand and supply.

Ends/Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Issued at HKT 12:35


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