On 26 September 2018, in response to the invitation of the Hong Kong Government's Task Force on Land Supply for the public and organisations to submit their views and opinions on the land supply situation in Hong Kong, the Council made the following written submission.
Submission to the Task Force on Land Supply
From Hong Kong Water Sports Council
Background of Hong Kong Water Sports Council
The background of the Hong Kong Water Sports Council (HKWSC) is attached at Annex I. [Annex I is attached to the PDF copy of original submission, which may be obtained here.]
The purpose of this submission is to emphasise the long-term importance of sport, and therefore of the provision of sports facilities, to the community.
The land shortage which has been plaguing Hong Kong in recent years has created a dramatic shortfall in supply of residential accommodation, with all of the problems which this brings to the community, as adequately set out in the consultation paper. It is clear to everyone that solutions are urgently needed. The HKWSC understands and respects the basic need for housing and the right of all citizens to be adequately housed.
But finding adequate land for housing can be regarded as only solving one part of a far larger and more complex land supply picture. In the dense urban environment that is Hong Kong, where many residential units are relatively small in area, other land needs to be found to satisfy the inevitable demands of the community for convenient access to necessary supporting infrastructure and community facilities of a form expected in a modern society. One such demand is to find space to provide community sports and recreation facilities.
Section 5.3 of the Consultation Paper, headed ”Alternative Uses of Sites under Private Recreational Leases” includes the comment that
“In the past, in particular during the initial period, there was an acute shortage of public sports and recreational facilities in Hong Kong. Hence the Government granted sites to community organisations and private sports clubs under PRLs for developing sports and recreational venues at nil or nominal premium. This arrangement has been in place for many years; some of the PRL sites have over a century's history of operation.”
Historically this statement is correct. However, it overlooks the fact that in Hong Kong today there is still a shortage of facilities for broad community development of sport at a time when there is growing demand for access to organised sport and a growing awareness of the contribution of sport to a healthy and balanced lifestyle, not only to young people but to people of all ages.
The key objectives of the HKWSC are to develop and promote water sports in the community. Water sports have the advantage of requiring a small land base to take advantage of the many suitable areas of water surrounding Hong Kong. Water sports are thus an inseparable part of a wider Hong Kong sports community which together provides an essential element in the fabric of society.
Holistic Planning and Quality of Life
There is no doubt that lifestyles in Hong Kong are busy and stressful, whether for students or older citizens. Reports of childhood obesity and student suicide continue to make the news. Sadly too, high blood pressure, heart conditions, osteoporosis, diabetes and dementia affect not just the older members of society, but increasingly nowadays those far younger. There are many ways to reduce stress and to provide the balanced lifestyle which is a requirement for a harmonious and healthy society, but it is a proven fact that regular exercise is an essential part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle for everyone. This exercise can be simply walking or hiking and this is enough for many people. But for those who find casual exercise hard to maintain, or for young people looking for opportunities to excel at something they love, sport will very often provide the answer, and for many will become a lifestyle. Organised sport includes essential social elements which motivate participants to continue to return and take part and in this respect is different from mere recreation. Organised sport also does not have to be at a high level - people can participate at whichever level best suits them, from beginner to elite, whether young or old, and whether healthy or mentally/physically challenged. But the opportunities must be available for them to do so.
The HKWSC therefore does not support the proposal on page 45 to review and relocate “Land Extensive” Government recreational facilities. The optimal recreational use must be made of all existing recreation and sports sites, and facilities should not be removed from the communities that they serve without careful consideration of the consequences and the alternatives that exist. If the intention is to increase and improve the quality and capacity of a site for modern sports requirements, then that would be appropriate. If the end result is simply to reduce the land available for sports and recreation, then that would not be in the interest of improving the general quality of life for Hong Kong people.
Without opportunities for organised sport in a community, social problems and poor community health will result in the medium and long term. It is therefore essential that sports facilities and their important role in the Hong Kong community, are viewed as high priority essentials in deciding which options to adopt in increasing land supply.
In the current environment of shortage of land for essential needs, including housing, it is important that a long-term view is maintained in finding the required short-term solutions.
Of course in providing or retaining sports facilities, it is essential that they are effectively used and contributing positively to the community. But a failure to retain or create sufficient sports facilities, whether club facilities or government-run facilities, will in the long-term be a failure of our obligations to future generations of Hong Kong citizens, both young and old.
The ability to participate in sport is an essential need of the community, bringing long-term health and harmony, and as well civic pride. Whilst the provision of adequate housing is the highest priority, this should be provided for in a way which allows the matching needs of society to also be met. Sport is one of the essentials that the Government must take on board in planning for land supply if members of the Hong Kong community are to be better able to enjoy healthy and happy lives. A forward-looking view should be taken of the growing needs of the community in this regard to maintain and expand the opportunities for active sports. We request that the final report of the Task Force reflects such needs.
Hong Kong Water Sports Council