A newly appointed panel of advisers to Hong Kong’s mammoth Northern Metropolis project will be reviewing its proposed land use and help map out concrete plans to realise the vision of a vibrant economic and technology hub, with several saying they were open to revisiting previously held assumptions.
This was important, they said, as the vision was first announced by former chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in her last year in office, and her successor John Lee Ka-chiu’s government now had to start delivering on the project and executing its own ideas for it.
On Friday, the government announced the appointment of 37 non-official members and eight official ones to the Advisory Committee on the Northern Metropolis for a term of two years.
The 46-member panel comprised a large number of “stakeholders”, including lawmakers, business leaders and academics, said its chairman, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po.
Fellow panel member Duncan Chiu, who represents the IT sector in the legislature, said he would advise the government to sort out land use to create clusters for the city’s biotechnology development.
“Now land use in the area is really bits and pieces scattered loosely in different parts. I will conduct a site visit and see how we can create a cluster effect there,” he said.
Planning sector legislator Tony Tse Wai-chuen said the government should review and change the land use if necessary if it could no longer cope with future housing and commercial development.
“I hope the government can diversify development there to create clusters for industries and businesses. There should be flexibility in the planning mechanism to allow changes to cater to future development.”
Lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun, a former chairman of the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation, said he would advise the government to negotiate with developers to set up a “Hong Kong Corner” in Hung Shui Kiu with low rent for young people to set up businesses.
“The district will provide a great source of cross-border customers for these young people if they can start their own business there. There are a lot of things they can do from catering, hairdressing to design,” he said.
Lawmaker Gary Zhang Xinyu said he expected the advisory body to run until the project’s delivery, which could take 20 years, and hoped it would help the government in learning from past lessons to ensure no delays and cost overruns occurred.
“It is a good thing to have an advisory body in which the government can hear the opinions from the relevant lawmakers, academics, business representatives and other stakeholders,” he said.
Professor Lau Siu-kai of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, a semi-official think tank, said the government should focus more on the metropolis than Lam’s signature policy, Lantau Tomorrow Vision, a massive project to build 1,000 hectares of artificial islands in waters to the east of Lantau costing about HK$600 billion.
“The land in the Northern Metropolis is readily available and it won’t involve a large sum of financing like that of the Lantau Tomorrow Vision. The metropolis project can deliver a quicker and more desirable result,” he said.
Exco convenor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who was also appointed to the panel, said it had absorbed various stakeholders and representatives. That included lawmakers who were directly returned via constituencies involved in the mega plan, as well as representatives from rural powerhouse the Heung Yee Kuk.
“The government may want to hear more views,” said Ip, chairwoman of the New People’s Party. “Everything can court controversies.”