Remarks on Nam Sang Wai and Lut Chau Project by Adrian Fu
Nam Sang Wai has been part of my life for the past 50 years. Save for the fact that I have matured from a teenager to a senior citizen, surprisingly little has changed in Nam Sang Wai during the last five decades.
The trees, the ponds, the bunds forming the bicycle paths are nearly the same as I remember them when I was 15. It was then in the early 60s that my grandfather bought into the Nam Sang Wai Development Co., the owner of the estate. His aspiration was to one day build a village which would remind him of his roots growing up in rural Guangdong province.
In 1965, the company’s application to develop the southern portion of the estate was approved by the then New Territories Administration. The low-rise development was to be split into three phases spread over a land area of 15 hectares. But due to adverse political and economic conditions in Hong Kong in the late 60s the project was put on hold.
The estate kept the fish farming business active and full staffing was maintained to look after the property. It wasn’t until the mid-70s that I took over the files from my father and reactivated the negotiations with the N.T. Administration.
By then, the demographics and demand for housing had drastically changed, rendering the original scheme prepared in 1965 obsolete. Fish farming in Hong Kong had also been going downhill gradually over the years, which led to our decision to phase out the business.
In the interim, the family was in the process of forming a team of professionals to proceed with the development. Once the word was out, a number of large developers in Hong Kong and overseas began to show interest. The next few years were spent in planning and negotiations with different parties, some of which floundered as a result of two notable bust-ups in the Red Hill Peninsula and Ho Chung in Saikung. Both were mega residential developments in that era.
It wasn’t until 1986 that we agreed terms to sell 50% of the company to Henderson Land, as we felt at the time that Henderson had the team and expertise to spearhead the development.
Suffice to say that it has not been smooth sailing since, and in 2011 we offered to take over the project management role. We are now proposing a new scheme, which we believe will serve the public and benefit the local ecology. At its heart is an earlier vision of providing a low rise village concept in tandem with protection of and enhancements to the wetlands of northern Nam Sang Wai and nearby Lut Chau.
Our primary aim is to conserve Nam Sang Wai’s environment and atmosphere, whilst ensuring it is financially self-sustainable. In essence, this means some of the revenue from the housing development will support other project components, such as the home for the elderly, the dormitory for intellectually disabled adults, wetland visitor centre and wetland enhancements.
But such enhancements will require significant funding, as well as long-term commitment. Both are integral to our development proposal.
Having served 12 years as a trustee for WWF HK from 1999 to 2011 and being instrumental in completing the Hoi Ha Marine Centre project, I am very much aware of what is entailed.
Furthermore, my personal charitable foundation, the Fu Tak Iam Foundation, was formed 6 years ago as a perpetual charitable trust. During the past 5 years the endowment fund has become self-sustainable and has financed 119 NGOs here and in China, at a total cost of $220 million. So I know from experience how a project such as the Nam Sang Wai development can succeed.
The project we are endeavouring to create is based on a totally new scheme conceived after 2 years of research and fact finding. It is not an attempt to patch up the original scheme approved in 1994. We genuinely believe that we can cater to the urgent needs of the Hong Kong people by addressing the housing shortage and lack of social services for the most deprived sectors in our society. We are also creating a pleasant low density living environment instead of cramming 4,000 inhabitants into a concrete jungle towering over acres of dried up derelict fish ponds. And from a family perspective, we will look back with pride at the conservation of 140 hectares of land in perpetuity for the future generations of Hong Kong people. I urge the citizens of Hong Kong to consider the merits of this concept objectively and with an open mind, by putting aside the condemnation many of our critics, without understanding the true substance of the scheme, cast on this project.