Category Archives: Sustainability

HK Lamma Island build height

In Thomas More’s Utopia, ‘their houses are three storeys high’. The town of Yung Shue Wan, on Lamma Island, Hong Kong, allows ‘a maximum building height of 3 storeys (9m)’. The town has a population of approximately 6,000 people, living in an area of something like 8 ha (0.08 km2), which gives it a population density of around 7,500 people per km2.

The Hamilton district plan allows a 10m build height throughout the city, and our population density is about 1,500 people per km2. So based on no change to the build height, the Hamilton population could increase 2 to 3 times without needing to open up more land on its edges for housing. Hamilton could have a population of close to half a million, without change to existing height limits. The fact that Hong Kong has the world’s seventh highest life expectancy (New Zealand is 17th) suggests that living in higher density places maybe good for us.

Height limits are important in keeping a city to a human scale. Hong Kong’s cities are big, but Lamma Island allows trees to have an equal place in the landscape. Also, the protection of the green belt plays a major role in keeping the city liveable. On Lamma Island over 330 hectares are zoned as Green Belt. I’ll let notes from their zoning plan (no. s/i-li/9 page 54) explain.

‘The planning intention of this [green belt] zone is primarily for defining the limits of development areas, to preserve existing well-wooded hill slopes and other natural features, as well as to provide passive recreational outlets for the local population and visitors. There is a general presumption against development within this zone. Development within this zone will be strictly controlled and development proposals will be considered on individual merits taking into account the relevant Town Planning Board Guidelines.’

What also keeps the island peaceful is that the main method of getting around is on foot or by bicycle (there are no cars). This makes visiting here very pleasant, especially coming from the busy streets of Hong Kong Island and the drive to Auckland.

Reference: Benchmarking of medium size cities population density

 

HK Lamma Island: bike parking

When visiting Lamma Island, the first thing you see on leaving the ferry terminal is rows of bikes chained to the railings on both sides of the pier to the town. This has been an issue for the Hong Kong Government, who say ‘for many years … the pier channel was full of bicycles blocking the passage’. In the past (2012), they gathered the bikes up and demolished them at the island’s refuse dump, ‘including at least two new bikes’. When I visited the island in May 2015 the bikes were back in great numbers; someone had counted over 400 on a week day. (Reference Building the “Cycle Parking Platform“)

The Government’s solution was to build a very expensive bike park next to the pier, which was complete when I visited again in June 2015, but was not being used foe pibe parking, for unexplained reasons. But was being used as play area for children.

 

I visited again in Nov 2018 (second photo above); now the bike park is overflowing, and bikes are again taking the space along the pier railing. The above photo shows it’s not back to the same level as in 2015, but coming out of the ferry terminal I do get the feeling the extra bike parking has encouraged more people to bike, as my most recent photo from Nov 2018 below shows.