Speech by CS at opening ceremony of MIPIM Asia 2013 (English only) (with photo/video)

     Following is the speech by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, at the opening ceremony of MIPIM Asia 2013 this afternoon (November 5):

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good afternoon. I am delighted to join you here at the opening of MIPIM Asia 2013, the eighth edition of the summit for property leaders in the Asia-Pacific region.  Actually, of the last five summits, in my former capacity as the Secretary for Development I took part in four of them, either as an officiating guest or as a speaker or an award presenter. I am therefore particularly pleased to come back to this very familiar occasion, meeting leaders and friends in the property sector. May I first extend the warmest welcome on behalf of the Hong Kong SAR Government to all participants, especially those who have travelled a long way to Hong Kong.

     On the previous occasions, I spoke about Hong Kong's infrastructure as well as various initiatives in building a quality city commensurate with Hong Kong's status as Asia's world city. I would like to take this opportunity to update you on some latest developments. Let me start with land supply, which is at the very top of this term of government's priorities. Indeed, land is an important resource of any city. Without land there will be no property to be talked about. Tight supply of developable land stifles the development of a city, running the risk of preventing it from scaling new heights.  

     The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government has recently released two important consultation documents, namely the Long Term Housing Strategy consultation document and the Population Policy consultation document, to gauge the public's views in these two very important policy areas, both of which require land to satisfy our long-term socio-economic needs. In the context of discussing ways to satisfy the demand for land in Hong Kong, there are calls for the Government to set a population cap to contain the size of Hong Kong's population - and thus the demand for land. Although we made it clear when we launched the Population Policy Public Engagement Exercise on October 24 this year that a population cap is undesirable as this will only compound, not resolve, the population challenges that we are facing, it remains necessary for the Government to carefully manage possible pressure on infrastructure, housing, public services and the environment through robust population projections and continued planning and investment well ahead of time.

     To achieve our aspiration to be Asia's world city, the Government endeavours to provide adequate and suitable land resources to sustain our social and economic developments. In his inaugural Policy Address delivered in January this year, the Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, clearly set out our policy blueprint and a multi-pronged approach to increase land supply. We are determined to increase land supply in the short, medium and long term, through both optimising the use of developed land and creating new land for development.

     As one of the means to increase land supply, we will act decisively in optimising the use of our built-up land and conduct land use reviews on an on-going basis, including reviewing the Government land currently vacant or used under short-term tenancy or temporary uses, or where the original intended use is no longer required, so as to convert suitable sites for housing or other uses to meet the more pressing needs in the community as soon as possible.  

     As some of you would know, Hong Kong has a land mass of 1 108 square kilometres, only about 24 per cent of which is built-up with infrastructure facilities. To increase land supply, one clear option is to increase the development density of the built-up area, taking into account planning considerations such as traffic and infrastructure capacities as well as the environment, and visual and air ventilation impacts. A good example is the proposed increase in development intensity (density) of the Kai Tak Development, which was in fact one of the themes of the fifth MIPIM Asia back in 2010.

     We have a vision to develop Kai Tak into a distinguished, vibrant, attractive and people-oriented community by Victoria Harbour. It is a mega infrastructure project costing over HK$100 billion and spanning a planning area of about 320 hectares, comprising the 280-hectare former Kai Tak Airport site and the adjoining hinterland areas with mixed developments.  

     To leverage on the development potential of the Kai Tak area, the Government is conducting preliminary assessments on increasing its development density. A few housing lots have already been identified for a 20 per cent increase in plot ratio without compromising the infrastructure capacity of the area, and we are hopeful to be able to identify more.

     Our gentler, undeveloped land is mostly located in the rural area, often consisting of "brownfields", private agricultural land, village housing, squatters, workshops, open storages and port back-up facilities in the New Territories. To develop these potentially developable sites, we have to carry out comprehensive planning and engineering studies to ascertain their technical feasibility and plan for adequate infrastructure. Clearance, land resumption and compensation will be involved, and the local employment and economy will also be affected to a certain extent.  Comprehensive planning and public engagement are thus prerequisites for their development.

     Apart from developing larger-scale New Development Areas (NDAs) in the New Territories, such as the North East NT NDA, Hung Shui Kiu NDA and Yuen Long South developments, we are also identifying individual non-built-up sites suitable for development, including those generally lower-value "green belt" sites on the fringe of urban areas and developed areas. The relevant reviews have started to bear fruits, and my colleagues in the Development Bureau and other relevant agencies will proceed with town planning and other relevant procedures to convert the suitable ones to residential and other uses once the feasibility of developing these sites is confirmed.  

     Furthermore, we will continue to undertake projects to create new land.  Reclamation has been a common way of creating new land over the years, while rock cavern development is a rather new area (idea). The Tung Chung New Town Extension, reclamation on an appropriate scale outside of the Victoria Harbour and the relocation of some Government facilities to caverns will be the focus of the Government for developing new land in the long run.

     I cannot emphasise more that the Government has the determination and capability to increase Hong Kong's land supply in response to the continued population growth necessary for our future sustainable development. But we shall not shy away from the fact that all these measures are bound to be contentious and require the community to make trade-offs. All in Hong Kong have to face reality and make some difficult decisions.      

     Let me now turn to update you on a couple of initiatives highlighted in my previous MIPIM Asia appearances. First is Energizing Kowloon East.

     Speaking as the former Secretary for Development, I introduced the Energizing Kowloon East project to MIPIM Asia 2011. This is a major undertaking to create a second CBD in Hong Kong. Since then, a dedicated office, called the Energizing Kowloon East Office (EKEO), was set up last year to steer, oversee and facilitate the transformation of Kowloon East, which comprises the Kai Tak Development, Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay, into another premier core business district of Hong Kong.

     To facilitate the transformation of Kowloon East we apply the "place-making" approach integrating planning, design, implementation, management and community engagement to create quality public space and improve pedestrian environment for public enjoyment. We are improving the various facilities and services in the public realm, as well as providing "one-stop (shop)" services to facilitate private developments.

     In the past year the Energizing Kowloon East Office has taken forward many proposals to improve the environment and release the development potential in Kowloon East. The EKEO has also reviewed the development parameters of four land sale sites with the potential of providing an additional commercial floor area of some 220 000 square metres. To improve connectivity within the Kowloon East area, particularly in linking up the revitalised Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay areas with the new Kai Tak Development, consultations are under way to gauge the public views on a proposed Environmentally Friendly Linkage System.

     I now turn to urban renewal. Previously at this event I spoke about our endeavours in urban renewal and in improving the livelihood of residents in older districts. I am pleased to tell you that all the new initiatives in the revised Urban Renewal Strategy promulgated in 2011 have now been successfully launched and have met with the community's support.

     One of the vivid examples is what we call the "Demand-led Redevelopment Project Pilot Scheme", which opens a new channel for property owners of these old buildings to initiate redevelopment by submitting an application to the Urban Renewal Authority (URA). This bottom-up, community-driven approach to urban renewal has not only assisted the URA to look afresh at redevelopment opportunities in the urban areas, but also expedited the redevelopment process. Indeed, the first "Demand-led" project had only taken 14 months from project commencement to the gazettal for resumption, which is a record for the Urban Renewal Authority.

     So far, the Urban Renewal Authority has commenced seven "Demand-led" projects. These commenced projects have not only helped to improve the living conditions of 700 households, but also released 5 300 square metres of what used to be dilapidated areas for a major face lift.

     What I have outlined is our blueprint to sustain the Hong Kong's continued economic growth. I am sure that you all, as property and investment leaders within and outside the Asia-Pacific region, will share with us your precious experiences in the MIPIM Asia sessions to follow. We have much to learn from you all. Lastly, may I wish you all a very fruitful conference, and for those travelling from abroad, a very happy stay in Hong Kong. Thank you very much.

Ends/Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Issued at HKT 16:48