Why north vision is closer to Lam's heart

Editorial | Mary Ma 19 Oct 2021

The Northern Metropolis that Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor insists is her idea is, in fact, a vision that may take as long as 20 years to fulfill - it is not something that will solve Hong Kong's housing woes in the near future.

This is inevitable since the same applies to any planning project in respect of land use.

Critics may be quick to criticize some of Lam's predecessors like Tung Chee-hwa and Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, saying that if they had been ambitious with planning then Kwu Tung North would already have been developed or Hung Shui Kiu may have been home to more people.

But let's be fair - it's all too easy to say "if" when pointing an accusing finger. That's too obvious to be a true hypothesis.

Earlier in a media interview, Lam sought to play down the Lantau Tomorrow Vision reclamation that was once dominant in government planning.

Legitimately, the focus has been shifted from the south to the north, with nearly all the attention given to the future Northern Metropolis announced by Lam in her policy address.

Although the Northern Metropolis is a latecomer, the chance that it will become real before the Lantau Tomorrow Vision is undoubtedly a lot higher.

In that sense, Lantau Vision is truly "visionary."

Lam insisted that no one in the central government or the local authorities in Guangdong and Shenzhen had offered her any advice in relation to the new metropolis.

While it is up to the listeners to decide whether to believe it or not, it is only logical that the central government has its views and would like to see the gravity of development move towards the border for the sake of better integration with the mainland.

In light of Lam's comments that there is no need to rush to create the remainder of the 700 hectares of land off Lantau after reclaiming Kau Yi Chau islands, it is a foregone conclusion that a substantial part of Lantau Vision will remain just a vision in the foreseeable future.

That's not to say it won't happen, only that the urgency is no longer there.

This should surprise no one as it has always been questionable whether Lam was wholeheartedly committed to the idea in the first place.

Back then, she had no choice because she would have had to overcome many high hurdles if her administration wanted to gain access to land resources held firmly in private hands in the politically complicated New Territories.

But the game rules have changed fundamentally since then.

Not only has she been given new political clout with which she can access these lands quickly, but she has also pledged to gain possession of fishponds from their private owners.

The SAR is no longer the same. Despite being equally visionary as the Lantau Tomorrow project, the Northern Metropolis is destined to be held closely to the heart by the current and future administrations - whether Lam will be re-elected or not.

After reclaiming land around the Kau Yi Chau islands, the rest of the Lantau Tomorrow Vision will likely be shelved until the need arises again.

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