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本會回應土地供應諮詢 HKBWS response to land supply

This topic has been un-sticky by HKBWS Chuan at 12/08/2019 09:25.

本會回應土地供應諮詢 HKBWS response to land supply



土地供應充斥思想陷阱 環境及社會成犧牲品
(Please scroll down for English)

概要
香港正面對樓價高企及公營房屋供應不足,市民每天承受著高昂的租金、巨大的供樓壓力、漫長的公屋輪候時間,甚至越來越多人別無他選惟有入住「貴、細、擠」的劏房。

是次諮詢文件清楚承認以上問題的存在,但卻將問題簡化並單純歸咎於「土地匱乏」,務求營造一個「若不開發大量土地,就不可能解決社會問題」的氛圍。政府將此議題交給土地供應專責小組解決,並鼓勵市民積極「討論」。做法不但進一步加劇社會的分歧和不滿,更是極不負責任的舉動。然而,若果不優先處理土地規劃制度、房屋制度以及金融政策的漏洞和不公等根本性問題,就無法解決公屋的迫切需要及樓價高企的問題;反而在社會需要和自然保育之間製造不必要的對立,而犧牲的往往是公眾利益和自然環境。

作為以「人鳥和諧‧自然長存」為宗旨的環保團體,香港觀鳥會(本會)尤其關注土地選項的環境可持續性。《香港2030+:跨越2030年的規劃遠景及策略》已指出本港策略性的規劃目標是「要倡導可持續發展,以滿足香港現時及未來的社會、環境及經濟需要和訴求」,並將香港提升為「宜居、具競爭力和可持續發展的『亞洲國際都會』」[1]。本會認為政府應跟隨這原則決定土地利用的優次,以達至自然保育及可持續發展。

可是十八個土地選項中有不少選項會帶來不可逆轉的環境破壞,例如開發郊野公園、填海、填平水塘及開發農地等。本會擔憂以上選項將激發更多在保育地帶上的城市發展,加速生態破壞。這不但違反香港自身的規劃法例和本港的《生物多樣性策略及行動計劃》,亦有違大灣區所倡議的「綠色及健康生活環境」和全國生態保護紅線制度的保育意向,更與國際《生物多樣性公約》的保育精神背道而馳。

開發郊野公園的語言偽術
早於2017年1月的施政報告中,政府已提出「用郊野公園內少量生態價值不高、公眾享用價值較低、位於邊陲地帶的土地用作公營房屋、非牟利的老人院等非地產用途」[2]。是次土地供應的公眾諮詢文件與政府的計劃互相呼應,將兩幅郊野公園「邊陲地帶」以及開發更多郊野公園納為土地供應選項。然而,《郊野公園條例》(香港法例第208章)清楚列明政府有責任「保護郊野公園及特別地區內的花草樹木及野生生物」,更要「避免在相當程度上減損郊野公園的享用價值及宜人之處」。開發郊野公園是試圖淡化郊野公園受條例保護的本質,並挑戰以自然保育和保障公眾享用價值為目標的良好立法原意。

再者,「邊陲地帶」一詞具誤導性,既含糊又沒有指明地點是位於郊野公園範圍以內或以外。但其實「邊陲地帶」實質所指的根本就屬於郊野公園範圍之內[3]。再者,以「生態價值不高和公眾享用價值較低」作為開發具保育價值地帶的藉口已非新鮮事,檢視政府在發展「綠化地帶」的往績,政府雖然一直公開表示只會將「生態價值較低」且有植被的「綠化地帶」改劃作發展用途,可是最終卻發展了不少有中至高生態價值、有緩衝功能及位於「綠化地帶」的林地(請參考本會的「香港生物多樣性及保育重點指標報告2015-2017」[4])。因此,實在難以令市民相信政府發展「生態價值不高、公眾享用價值較低」的郊野公園的承諾。只有在其他可行的土地供應方法已經耗盡及取得市民的共識下,方可考慮發展郊野公園作為最後選項,並須嚴格遵從所有相關的法例及國際最佳做法。

開發農地及「公私營合作」的陷阱
農地不僅生產農產品,為農民帶來收入,更為本地消費者提供更多食物選擇。此外,它的生態、景觀和文化價值亦不容忽視。以上水塱原為例,本會和長春社與當地農民進行管理協議計劃,當中包括種植水稻和濕地管理,為各種野生動物提供棲息、繁殖和覓食地方,促進了該區的生物多樣性,全球極度瀕危的黃胸鵐亦在遷徙期間穩定地在塱原出現。此外,農業用地可作為城市、鄉村、溪流和郊野之間的緩衝區,同時可作野生動物的生態走廊,讓牠們能夠在分散的棲息地或郊野公園間移動,使香港在高度城市化的情況下亦能促進更完整的生態系統。此外,魚塘亦被視為一種農地,尤其在后海灣一帶更具有高保育價值。這些魚塘和鄰近的濕地是鳥類的重要覓食、棲息和繁殖地,並為米埔內后海灣拉姆薩爾濕地生態系統的一部分。

但農地一直面對很大的發展威脅,且沒有全面有效的機制保護,令可耕農地持續減少(請參考本會的「香港生物多樣性及保育重點指標報告2015-2017」[4])。過去五年,「農業」地帶的規劃申請,獲城市規劃委員會批准的比率超過六成[5]。在近年土地短缺的恐慌下,農地更被視為具發展及投資潛力。已平整的農地地價比適合耕種的高出五倍[6],促使更多人進行堆填及非法傾倒活動以提升日後的發展潛力。

土地供應其中一個選項是以公私營合作發展積存已久的私人持有新界農地。然而諮詢文件幾乎沒有就農地上的作業及活動,或其囤積的現況著墨,更沒有提及其生態、經濟及社會價值及功能,反而大篇幅討論以「公私營合作」模式開發農地。這樣的演繹方式不但有礙市民對農地價值的基本理解,更進一步將農地商品化。公眾諮詢文件中提到,「公私營合作」仍須透過城市規劃委員會作土地用途改劃或甚至增加發展密度。本會擔心「公私營合作」會合理化發展商一直在農地及魚塘提出的發展項目,導致更多農地及魚塘被破壞及開發。鑒於早年政府提出改劃綠化地帶的經驗,儘管環保團體極力反對,並指出選址具有生態保育價值,和政府所承諾的改劃準則不一致,但城市規劃委員會仍會考慮到「應付殷切的住屋需求」而批准改劃[7]。本會擔憂推行「公私營合作」時將會出現類似的情況。

棕地優先並堵塞土地漏洞
發展局編寫給土地專責小組的討論文件和是次公眾諮詢文件都同樣提到,香港的棕地與其他國家的棕地不同,因為它們並非閒置,而是有業務運作,因此發展過程將會十分艱難。然而,本會認為香港棕地是不當使用土地和執法不力所造成的結果,政府絕對有責任糾正這些不恰當和低效的土地使用。若然棕地上的作業對社會有益(例如回收行業),政府應將其遷移到適當的地點,以免造成進一步破壞環境,並考慮給予補貼以協助企業生存。與此同時,應立即堵塞土地規劃制度的漏洞,防止棕地進一步擴散至周邊地區。

總結
香港是獨一無二的國際都會,雖然擁有相當高的人口密度,但仍能輕易前往郊野公園。城市人的生活空間和生活質素都日漸變差,這種得天獨厚的郊野空間漸漸成為香港人珍重的核心價值。是次土地供應公眾諮詢不但不能舒緩現時迫切的房屋問題,更會激發更多社會階層之間的衝突,甚至造成社會需求和自然保育的不必要對立。本會認為政府必須先確保房屋為香港市民的基本生活必需品而非投資商品;繼而決心扭轉現行法例、制度和執行上的不公局面,並在無須犧牲環境和社會利益的前題下令香港提升為宜居、具競爭力和可持續發展的「亞洲國際都會」。

[1]《香港2030+:跨越2030年的規劃遠景及策略》公眾參與書冊. 取自 https://www.hk2030plus.hk/TC/document/2030+Booklet_Chi.pdf
[2] 香港特別行政區政府(2017年1月18日)。 二零一七年施政報告第117段。取自 https://www.policyaddress.gov.hk/jan2017/chi/p116.html
[3] 香港特別行政區政府(2017年6月28日)。立法會二十一題:關於兩幅郊野公園邊陲地帶土地的研究【新聞公報】。取自 https://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/201706/28/P2017062800416.htm?fontSize=1
[4] 香港生物多樣性及保育 重點指標報告2015及2017。取自 https://www.hkbws.org.hk/cms/index.php/reports
[5] 由2012至2016年,城規會在綠化地帶及農業用地(i)接獲規劃申請的宗數,(ii)獲批規劃申請的宗數,(iii)獲批比率為:(i)100 及 225,(ii)48 及138,(iii)48% 及 61%。以上數字是由法定規劃綜合網站2獲取數據並計算而得。
[6] 農地的地價可以有極大的變化,由每平方呎$250的優質可耕農地,到每平方呎$1,309的已平整、舖了水泥及已適合發展的農地。取自 https://www.28hse.com
[7] 城市規劃委員會會議(2018年6月21日)將軍澳綠化地改劃申請。取自 https://www.info.gov.hk/tpb/en/meetings/TPB/Minutes/m1171tpb_e1.pdf


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本會鼓勵大家把握最後兩天提交個人意見,建議大家可參與以下聯署,亦可填寫土供組的網上問卷調查:
【土地供應專責小組公眾參與活動─網上問卷調查】*
https://landforhongkong.hk/tc/#
* 注意無需填夠1200公頃,切忌選取對環境及社會帶來不可逆轉破壞的選項;亦可寫下除土地供應外,能更有效解決「貴、細、擠」的建議。【立即聯署﹕保郊野、守農地、護海洋】
https://landsupply.weebly.com/
【立即聯署:保衛郊野公園、守護香港未來】
https://act.gp/2lTXPiQ

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>>延伸閱讀:本會詳細意見書(只提供英文版本)
>>Further readings: The Society's detailed response to land supply

20180926_LandSupply_consultation_HKBWS(final).pdf (812.41 KB)
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Pitfalls in the land supply discussion
Environment and the society are sacrificed



Overview
Hong Kong is facing the problem of unaffordable housing and inadequate public housing supply, causing the general public to suffer from increasingly expensive housing rental prices, a heavy burden of home mortgage repayments, long waiting times for public rental housing, or increasing numbers of people being forced to live in cramped and tiny sub-divided flats.

The consultation document clearly admits the presence of all these problems but simplifies and blames it on the shortage of land supply, creating an illusion that increasing land supply is the ultimate solution. The Government irresponsibly delegated this highly sensitive issue to the Task Force on Land Supply (the Task Force) and encouraged the general public to “discuss”, which has furthered fuelled the divisions and disaffection in our community. Yet, without fixing the loopholes and injustice in the current housing, economy and planning system, the urgent need for public and affordable problems would not be solved; but instead would intensify the unnecessary dilemma between social needs and nature conservation, damaging both the public interest and the natural environment.

As an environmental NGO with a vision of “people and birds together” and “nature forever”, The Hong Kong Bird Watching Society (HKBWS) is particularly concerned with the environmental and ecological sustainability of the proposed land supply options. The strategic planning "Hong Kong 2030+: Towards a Planning Vision and Strategy Transcending 2030" released in 2016 aims to achieve the vision of Hong Kong becoming “a livable, competitive and sustainable Asian’s World City” with a planning goal to “champion sustainable development with a view to meeting our present and future social, environmental and economic needs and aspirations”[1]. We consider the priority in the use of land should follow such principles to protect and respect our environment and for the sustainable development of our city.

However, among the proposed 18 land supply options, there are a handful of choices which would bring irreversible impacts to the natural environment, such as development of Country Parks, reclamation of marine habitats and reservoirs, and development of agricultural land. We are concerned these land supply options will inevitably accelerate the rate of ecological loss and other ecosystem services that provide public benefit to the whole community. This runs directly contrary to the intent of Hong Kong’s own planning laws and Hong Kong’s Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, but also the national direction under the Greater Bay Area initiative for a “green and healthy living environment” and the Ecological Protection Red Line system for conservation and the Convention on Biological Diversity at the international scale.

Misleading concepts in the development of Country Parks
In the January 2017 Policy Address the Government had already proposed to develop “a small proportion of land on the periphery of country parks with relatively low ecological and public enjoyment value for purposes other than real estate development, such as public housing and non-profit-making elderly homes”[2]. The current public consultation document echoed with the Government’s proposal and included options to develop two sites at the “periphery” of Country Parks and even additional areas of the Country Parks in the future. Yet, the development of Country Parks completely undermines and challenges the good intentions of the Country Parks Ordinance (Cap. 208) for conservation and public enjoyment.

Moreover, the term “periphery” is misleading as it obscures whether the sites are inside or outside the Country Park boundary. It should be made clear the sites are in fact fully located within the boundary[3]. The Government’s track record in rezoning vegetated Green Belts of “relatively low conservation value” for development, which has led to a loss of well-wooded Green Belts with high or medium ecological value and buffering effect (please refer to our reports of “Hong Kong Headline Indicators for Biodiversity and Conservation”[4]), gives the public no cause for confidence that the Government’s stated intention to develop the Country Parks would be limited to areas with “relatively low” ecological and public enjoyment value. Development of the Country Parks should be adopted as the solution of last resort only when all other options can be shown to have been exhausted, a public consensus is reached, and under rigorous application of all relevant legislation and international best practice.

Pitfalls in the use of agricultural lands and public-private partnership
Agricultural lands not only bring income to farmers by selling their produce and secure food source and safety for Hong Kong consumers, they can also have ecological, landscape and cultural values within a city. Take Long Valley as an example. The HKBWS and The Conservancy Association has been carrying out a management agreement project there, which includes growing rice and wetland management. This has provided shelter, roosting, breeding and foraging habitats for a wide range of wildlife and enhanced the biodiversity in the area, even the globally critically endangered Yellow-breasted Bunting now regularly appears in Long Valley during the migration period. Besides, agricultural lands can act as buffer zones between urban, rural area, streams, woodlands and conservation areas, wildlife corridors allowing movements of wildlife between the fragmented habitats or between separated conservation areas/Country Parks, so as to enhance the integrity of the ecosystem within this highly urbanized city. In addition, fishponds are regarded as a type of agricultural land, where those in the Deep Bay area are of high conservation value. Together with the adjacent wetland habitats, they are important foraging, roosting and breeding habitats for birds and form part of the ecosystem of the Mai Po Inner Deep Bay Ramsar site of international importance.

However, agricultural land is not well-protected and has been under imminent development threat, leading to an ongoing incremental loss of arable agricultural land (please refer to our reports of “Hong Kong Headline Indicators for Biodiversity and Conservation”[4]). In the past five years, the average approval rate of planning applications in AGR zone over 60%[5]. Under the fear of land shortage in recent years, agricultural land is regarded as of high development and investment potential with paved agricultural land selling at a price five times higher than arable farmland[6]. This creates a perverse incentive for more dumping, fly-tipping activities and site formation to facilitate development in the hope of securing this higher value.

One of the land supply options is to use the mechanism of public-private partnership (PPP) to “unlock the potential of large-scale private agricultural land”. However, little did the consultation document mentioned about the activities and business on agricultural land, or the current situation of hoarding of farmland. The economic, social and ecological value of agriculture lands and their functions in a city were not even mentioned. Instead, it focused on how to use the PPP mechanism for the development of agricultural land. Such presentation approach not only hinders the public’s basic understanding of agricultural land and its value, but also further commercialize agricultural land. As stated in the consultation document, PPP is still required to go through the existing statutory procedure to gain approval from Town Planning Board for rezoning the agricultural lots to development zonings and some may need to increase the development intensity as well. We are concerned PPP would rationalize the developers’ development proposal on farmland and fishponds, leading to more destruction and development of the farmlands and fishponds. As in the case of GB rezoning proposed by the Government, even though environmental NGOs have strongly opposed to several sites due to their ecological/conservation value and the inconsistency with the Government’s GB review criteria, the Town Planning Board would still consider “to meet the acute housing demand” and approved the rezoning sites[7]. We are concerned that similar situation would occur for rezoning agricultural land to facilitate PPP.

Brownfield first and loopholes plugged

As in both the discussion paper for the Task Force prepared by the Development Bureau and the consultation document, it is frequently mentioned that the brownfields in Hong Kong are different from the ones in other countries, as they are not idle and have business operations which contributes to the society. As such, it is said that the process would be lengthy and challenging. From our perspective, brownfields in Hong Kong is caused by inappropriate use of land and inadequate land/planning enforcement. The Government should have the responsibility to fix these inappropriate and inefficient use of land. If there are industries which are beneficial to the society (e.g. recycling), the Government should consider relocate them in proper locations with facilities to avoid environmental degradation and subsidies to assist the business to survive. At the same time, loopholes in the planning and land system should be plugged to avoid further encroachment of brownfields to other areas of conservation concern.

Conclusion
Hong Kong is indeed a unique city in China and as well as in the world, with such a high population density but yet also with a large number of country parks that are easily accessible from every part of the city. This is increasingly valued by a community living in confined spaces and concerned about declining quality of life and opportunity. The HKBWS considers that the current land supply public consultation cannot address the current severe housing problem in Hong Kong, but instead has encouraged more conflicts between different levels of the society and unnecessary dilemma between social needs and nature conservation. We consider the Government needs to recognize and secure housing as a basic necessity of Hong Kong people, rather than an investment asset. Determination to change the current system, legislation and practice is also needed, such that development of the city would not be in the expense of the environment and social needs and the harmony in the society can be restored. In this way, there is hope that our vision of becoming a livable, competitive and sustainable Asia’s World City could be reached.

[1] Page 20 of the consultation document for the "Hong Kong 2030+: Towards a Planning Vision and Strategy Transcending 2030"
[2] HKSAR Government. (2017, January 18). Paragraph 117 of 2017 Policy Address. Retrieved from https://www.policyaddress.gov.hk/jan2017/eng/p116.html
[3] HKSAR Government. (2017, June 28). LCQ21: Study on two sites on the periphery of country parks [Press Release]. Retrieved from http://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/201706/28/P2017062800421.htm
[4] Hong Kong Headline Indicators for Biodiversity and Conservation 2011 - 2017 reports. Retrieved from https://www.hkbws.org.hk/cms/index.php/reports
[5] From 2012 to 2016, the average (i) number of planning application received in GB and AGR, (ii) number of planning application approved in GB and AGR, and (iii) approval rate in GB and AGR are: (i) 100 and 225, (ii) 48 and 138, (iii) 48% and 61%. All numbers are calculated from the data collected from TPB Portal 2.
[6] The price of agricultural land can range from HK$250 per square foot for high quality arable farmland to HK$1,309 per square foot for formed and paved farmland ready for development. Data retrieved from www.28hse.com
[7] Town Planning Board meeting held on 21 June 2018 for the rezoning of GB sites in Tseung Kwan O. Retrieved from https://www.info.gov.hk/tpb/en/meetings/TPB/Minutes/m1171tpb_e1.pdf


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You are encouraged to participate in the following petitions and online survey for Land Supply :
【Online Survey: Land for Hong Kong: Our Home, Our Say! 】*
https://landforhongkong.hk/en/#
* Please do not choose the options that will lead to irreversible impacts to the environment and society. When checking the boxes for the online land supply survey, it is not necessary to meet the suggested total land demand of 1200 hectares. Apart from the comments on the various land supply options, you are welcomed to submit ideas on how to solve the problem of "pricy, tiny and cramped" living environment.
【Sign Now: Protect Our Country Park, Farmland and Ocean】
https://landsupply.weebly.com/
【Sign Now: Save Our Country Park】
https://act.gp/2lTXPiQ
香港觀鳥會 HKBWS

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