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2017-12-07 Why Hong Kong country parks are a poor choice for public housing

By Roger Nissim,  Adjunct Professor, Real Estate & Construction Dept, HKU and current adviser of the Hong Kong Countryside Foundation 

(original text published on SCMP 2017-12-07)

As a member of the Citizens Task Force on Land Supply I was encouraged to see members of the Country and Marine Parks Board question the Housing Societies criteria for choosing the fringes of Tai Lam and Ma on Shan Country Parks for potential housing.

Actually Government chose them before passing them to the Housing Society to evaluate thereby attempting to subvert the whole statutory planning process. Government should have done the evaluation first following the normal planning procedures to ascertain the suitability of the sites for development. But before they start they need to be ensure that, legally, they can excise any part of any Country Park for development when under the Country & Marine Parks Ordinance there is a basic presumption against any development until they have exhausted  ALL the other possible options for creating development land.

These options would include the implementation of the New Development Areas such as Hung Shui Kiu and Kwu Tung North, a review of all Brownfield sites, including the 105 vacant school sites, negotiating with the developers who have hundreds of hectares of redundant agricultural land waiting to be developed and placing such suitable identified land into properly planned layouts so implementation, by resumption if necessary, can take place.

Country Park land is remote usually with poor access and invariably lacking in basic services. So before any such land can be considered for development there should be traffic, drainage/sewage, environmental and visual impact assessments. The maximum plot ratio in these remote locations would be 1, nothing like the normal 5 plot ratio associated with public housing and what is needed to have a real impact on housing supply. Any rational cost benefit analysis would show that these sites represent a very poor choice.

Last month the Planning Department published the new Draft Kam Tin South OZP, Plan No. S/YL-KTS/14 which after a proper three year planning process has zoned sites for private residential development, public housing and the usual supporting facilities but has completely excluded the immediately adjacent parcel of Tai Lam Country Park which has been suggested the Housing Society consider. Clearly the planners have concluded that this land is not suitable for development and should remain as part of the country park so the Housing Society will be simply wasting its time to consider it any further. Governments attempt to subvert the proper planning process has clearly failed.

香港鄉郊基金對施政報告的回應 (2017-1-18)








1 Aug 2017
The Foundation submitted to the Chief Executive, the Chief Secretary for Administration, Financial Secretary, the Secretary for Development, the Secretary for Transport & Housing and the Secretary for Environment, its position paper on country parks in the context of land search for public housing and elderly accommodation.

(Full paper available for download: 20170801 HKCF’s Position Paper on Country Parks )



27 Jul 2017                                                              Two agriculture experts, Dr Anthony Tse and Mr Yip Tsz Lam, paid a technical visit to Lai Chi Wo, to appreciate the ongoing agricultural effort.  They also offered advice on farming practice and related infrastructure issues.

(From left to right) Dr. Anthony Tse, HKCF Chairman Lam Chiu Ying & Director Ng Cho Nam and Mr. Yip Tsz Lam.                   (左至右)謝天佑博士、鄉郊基金主席林超英先生、董事吳祖南博士,及葉子林先生。
2017年7月27日                                                        謝天佑博士及葉子林先生兩位農業專家,到荔枝窩展開了技術訪問,了解進行中的農業活動,以及為荔枝窩的農耕工作和相關配套提供了寶貴意見。

29 Apr 2017
Transplanting of paddy seedlings took place in Lai Chi Wo.

Volunteers getting first-hand experience in seedling transplant with bare feet.                 義工們親身體驗赤足蒔田。
2017年4月29日                                                         荔枝窩進行插秧。

4 Feb 2017
HKCF board members and staff joined the spring banquet of Hing Chun Yeuk at Lai Chi Wo to celebrate Chinese New Year.

HKCF board directors, village representatives of Lai Chi Wo and senior villagers of Hing Chun Yeuk in front of the temple.                                                                    鄉郊基金董事會成員、荔枝窩村長與慶春約耆英在協天宮前合照。

15 Jan 2017 
The first farmers’ market in Lai Chi Wo under the HSBC-supported village project “Sustainable Lai Chi Wo” took place in Lai Chi Wo to promote local produce.
The villagers, farmers and project staff jointly operated the farmers’ market at Lai Chi Wo.                                                                          村民、農夫與項目同事們一起運作荔枝窩農墟。



Sustainable Lai Chi Wo



The Hong Kong Countryside Foundation has been working closely with the villagers of Lai Chi Wo Village since 2011, jointly exploring ways to revitalise this beautiful and culturally rich village.  In 2011, the village was mostly deserted and the fields had been fallow for decades and were generally overgrown with shrubs.  Many village houses with traditional tiled roof were slowly crumbling.  Actions were urgently needed to re-populate the village and to bring back meaningful employment for its residents.  Otherwise the village might become yet another abandoned village in the New Territories, and would be forgotten within a decade or so.

香港鄉郊基金自2011 年開始與荔枝窩村民緊密接觸,積極探求方法, 希望恢復這條文化豐盈和風景優美的鄉村。2011年的時候,村裏人去樓空,田地荒廢了幾十年,長滿野草雜木,不少村屋的傳統金字瓦頂逐漸崩塌,有逼切需要重新建立常住人口,並把有意義的工作機會帶回本村,否則新界又會增添一條荒村,十年八載以後,荔枝窩會被世人遺忘。

In 2013, with the assistance of villagers keen for bringing life back to the village, the Foundation managed to rent some 40,000 sq metres of farm land from the villagers.  On this basis, the Foundation partnered with the Policy for Sustainability Lab (then known as Kadoorie Institute) of the University of Hong Kong, Produce Green Foundation and Conservancy Association in a multi-year, multi-disciplinary, village re-vitalisation project supported by HSBC viz. “Living Water and Community Revitalisation: An Agriculture-led Action, Engagement and Incubation Programme at Lai Chi Wo” <>This project, known as “Sustainable Lai Chi Wo” for short, has turned out to be tremendously successful, much beyond expectation.

鄉郊基金於2013年獲得衷心復村的村民協助,向村民承租了約4萬平方米的農地。有了這個基礎,鄉郊基金與香港大學策動永續發展坊(前身為嘉道理研究所)、綠田園基金及長春社等伙伴,並得到香港上海匯豐銀行支持,共同進行跨學科的鄉村活化計劃,全稱為「永續荔枝窩 – 農業復耕及鄉村社區營造計劃」,簡稱「永續荔枝窩」,幾年間成績遠超預期,令人振奮。

Under the project, the fields and associated irrigation channels were rehabilitated step by step.  The first crop of rice in 2014 was an emotional event, bringing back the fond memories of many indigenous villagers and re-connecting them to the soil of their home village.  Since then, the area under active cultivation has steadily grown.  Traditional crops such as maize, turnip, taro, ginger, papaya (non-GM), etc., have been re-introduced alongside other innovative species.


The resumption of farming and the organisation of training and education activities under the project brought an unprecedented number of volunteers and visitors to Lai Chi Wo, giving the village a new breath of life.  The first residents, associated with the project, settled down in the village in 2014.  They were later joined by returning villagers who provide services to visitors.  Increasingly, villagers are returning for short stays or for winter.  Some have even opted for part-time farming at Lai Chi Wo, their home village.


The opening up of the fields has led to the restoration of the beautiful, traditional rural landscape typical of villages in Hong Kong in the past.  Together with careful management of “visual corridors”, Lai Chi Wo now proves to be very attractive to local tourists from the city.  It has even caught the attention of foreign visitors, such that Lai Chi Wo is now featured by Lonely Planet as a top destination in Hong Kong.

荔枝窩村開田之後,重新展現昔日的優美傳統鄉郊風貌,配合悉心管理的「景觀走廊」,十分吸引本地遊客前來造訪,連海外遊客也加以垂青,以致成為世界著名旅遊出版社「Lonely Planet」推薦的香港首選旅遊目的地。

The project is conscious of the importance of maintaining balance and harmony between nature and culture based on agriculture.  It therefore requires that farming be conducted in an ecologically friendly manner.  Monitoring by HKU partners have confirmed that the resumption of traditional farming practice has a positive effect on biodiversity, in terms of butterflies, dragonflies, reptiles, amphibians etc.


The project is also firmly committed to the idea of sustainable development.  Steps are taken to develop village-based economic activities for the village’s long-term well-being.  In 2017, HKU partners started running farmer markets at Lai Chi Wo, to promote local farm outputs.  In 2017,  ginger and turmeric were processed in situ at Lai Chi Wo, as an effort to generate economic value locally.


This project is scheduled to end in late 2017.


Photo credit: Eric Ng


May 2017 Lai Chi Wo: Hong Kong’s Hidden Gem (Hong Kong Lawyer)

Despite its fall into obscurity, Lai Chi Wo is once again attracting attention and inspiring hope as the site of an experimental revitalisation project, which was launched in 2013. It is managed by the Policy for Sustainability Lab of the University of Hong Kong, partnered with the Hong Kong Countryside Foundation, Produce Green Foundation and Conservancy Association with funds from HSBC. With the help of this project, some local villagers have moved back to farm and receive visitors.

2017-03-23 荔枝窩,一條村一種生活 (蘋果日報)