For Yu it is a reflection of officials’ desire to tick the boxes rather than take into account users’ needs. “I think it only reflects that the government is very stupid,” he says.
Tai Po is not the only district to experience a mismatch of, or inefficiencies in, resource allocation. Tin Shui Wai, which comes under the Yuen Long District Council, has a large young population. Instead of the elderly, the district is filled with energetic teenagers. According to the Census and Statistics Department, 14 per cent of the population was aged 15 to 24 in 2014, meaning Yuen Long has the highest proportion of young people among all districts.
With such a high concentration of adolescents and young people, the area would benefit from more sports facilities. However, residents bemoan a lack of venues to exercise and take part in sports. Chan Kai-lun, a college student living in the area says: “Tin Shui Wai is a residential area with high population density, if there are more sports and recreational facilities, our lives will be better.”
According to the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines issued by the Planning Department, there should be one standard swimming pool per 287,000 people, but despite having a population of 292,000, Tin Shui Wai does not have one.
Kwok Hing-ping, district councillor for Yat Chak in Yuen Long, blames the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD).
“The less you do, the fewer mistakes you make,” Kwok says of the attitude of LCSD staff members when handling requests from the district council.
Kwok says he thinks the department is reluctant to construct more facilities because it wants to avoid being given more responsibilities and financial burdens. “They have higher management burden if they build one more facility. Management means that it requires more resources,” he adds.
Kwok also believes the LCSD lacks knowledge on how to use land effectively. He suggests that it should follow the practice of some private housing developments and build sports facilities such as badminton courts in the corridors between buildings.
Another district that suffers from inadequate facilities is Sai Kung. Despite the picturesque views and semi-rural environment, it is hard to find a cycling track in Sai Kung. The LCSD says this is because some roads in the area are too steep and are not suitable for building cycling tracks as children may not be able to cycle safely on them.
District councillor for Sai Kung Islands, Philip Li Ka-leung, thinks this is just an excuse.
“Why can’t they build some cycling tracks that are not for children?” he says. “You can put a sign up there to explain the possible harm, and people can choose for themselves whether or not to cycle in the area.”
Apart from a lack of facilities, residents also complain about the planning and design of the recreational facilities they do have in Sai Kung. For instance, there is a small model boat pool of about 20 sq. m. in the Hong Kong Velodrome Park in Tseung Kwan O. Model boat owners say that once a boat is switched on and accelerates, it has already reached the other side of the pool. Li points out that there is a huge artificial lake right next to the model boat pool. He does not understand why the larger pool is not used for the model boats instead.