Discovery Bay (DB) is a mixed, primarily residential, development consisting of upmarket residential development and private and public recreational facilities in Hong Kong. It is situated on the north-eastern coast of Lantau Island in the New Territories. The development spans an area of 650 hectares (1,600 acres), and includes two bays, the Tai Pak Bay (大白灣) and Yi Pak Bay (二白灣).
The 2011 census recorded 12,258 people living at DB; the developers said there were around 18,000 residents in mid-2011 with a sizeable community of expatriates from over thirty countries. DB is located 2 km west of Hong Kong Disneyland Resort and approximately 12 km west from the nearest point on Hong Kong Island, with the co-ordinates of .
DB currently (April 2009) consists of 14 residential development phases with properties ranging from garden houses to high-rise towers of up to 24 storeys. The development also features a 400-metre-long privately owned beach (accessible to the public but no lifeguards present), four private membership clubs including a golf club and a marina club and a public park (Siena Central Park). The absence of public recreational facilities is a bone of discontent with the residents especially in view of the fact that the developer has an outstanding obligation to provide 300,000 square metres of such facilities as part of the original plan.
Though DB is considered in Hong Kong to be a low-density development due to the amount of open spaces (as measured by the plot to development ratio of 0.12), DB is however the second most populous district (after the New Town of Tung Chung) on the sparsely populated Lantau Island. Unlike many other developments in Hong Kong, pets are allowed in DB, whereas other developments generally ban them.
- 1 History
- 2 Current development
- 3 Community, recreation and entertainment
- 4 Landscape and wildlife
- 5 Transportation network
- 6 Education
- 7 Municipal services
- 8 Issues and criticisms
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
DB's origin can be traced to the establishment, in May 1973, of the Hong Kong Resort Company Limited (HKR), by the wealthy shipowner & shipping agent Edward Wong Wing-cheung, of Kennedy Road, Hong Kong, followed by years of planning and negotiation finally culminating in the Master Plan sealed in December 1975 between HKR and the Hong Kong government. By New Grant No. 6122 of 10th September 1976, HKR agreed to surrender title to 800 Hong Kong properties, in total amounting to over 6.6 million square feet of New Territories agricultural land and buildings, in exchange for ten times that area at Discovery Bay. The plan called for development, on Lot 385 at Tai Pak Wan, of "membership club houses and a leisure resort and associated facilities which shall include an hotel or hotels ... a cable-car system ... and a non-membership golf course ..." In addition, HKR handed over HK$61.5 million in exchange for the grant and undertook to spend no less than another HK$600 million on development (excluding site formation costs) within 10 years of the grant.
Within months, however, Wong had got into great financial difficulty, personally facing a writ, filed in Hong Kong on 1 April 1977, by the Soviet-government controlled Moscow Narodny Bank Limited for return of US$7 million advanced in 1973 and, in the guise of his Panamanian bank holding company, Paclantic Financing Co., Inc., (HKR's majority shareholder) facing the same creditor demanding US$22.12 million in proceedings in Panama. Both the Chinese and British governments were concerned to prevent the property rights in the single largest piece of privately controlled land in Hong Kong falling into the hands of the Russian bank during times of deepening political uncertainty for Hong Kong, so the then Secretary for the New Territories, Sir David Akers-Jones, led the government's efforts to avert that forbidding prospect, steering HKR into the hands of the Beijing-friendly Cha Chi-ming. Having lost control of HKR and facing bankruptcy proceedings, Wong had long since left Hong Kong, in January 1977 while mooting the establishment of a Pacific Atlantic Bank of Miami and going into the casino business with the Anderson group of whom one Robert B Anderson, of One Rockefeller Plaza, had been a fellow director on the HKR board. Anderson had been US Secretary of the Navy and of the Treasury, as well as Special Ambassador to Panama, but by the mid-1980s had sunk to running a phony bank and moneylaundering for drug traffickers, for which he was sentenced to imprisonment in 1987.
The Cha family, up to then better known for its exploits running China Dyeing Works Ltd, an international textile group, responded to the opportunity and purchased HKR in May 1977. By 1979, all debts were paid off and work started on the reservoir and the core infrastructure but for a very different sort of project – essentially a residential community offering a relaxed lifestyle. Years later, after the handover, this decision was revisited in 2004 when it was discovered that Akers-Jones did not seek approval from the Executive Council (ExCo) for the deviation from the terms of the Land Grant. In a 2004 report by the government's Audit Commission, the Lands Department was severely criticized for allowing this to happen, particularly since Akers-Jones did not call on HKR under Cha to pay any additional land premium. After retiring from government, in 2000 Akers-Jones joined the board of Mingly Corporation, also controlled by Cha.
Unlike other large Hong Kong developments, everything in DB was built with private money, including roads, electricity and the water supply. Even the government-operated fire and police stations and the government-aided local primary school were built by the developer. In such developments, the government acts in the role as an approving and checking authority, with development proceeding under an official Master Plan, version 6.0a of which was released in 2003, including the major extension in 2003 in Yi Pak Wan.
DB was developed in phases and the developer, HKR, envisages that DB will eventually be home to 25,000 residents. The following data applies as of April 2008:
|Phase||Date||Development name(s)||Units||High-rise Units||Low-rise Units||Area|
|Phase 1:||1982||Beach Village, Headland Village & Parkridge Village||504||Tai Pak Wan|
|Phase 2:||1985 September||Midvale Village||381||Tai Pak Wan|
|Phase 3:||1986 June||Headland Village, Parkvale Village, Hillgrove Village & Parkridge Village||800||Tai Pak Wan|
|Phase 4:||1998 June||Peninsula Village||143||Peninsula|
|Phase 5:||1990 June||Greenvale Village||1,344||Yi Pak Wan|
|Phase 6:||1991 September||DB Plaza||144||Tai Pak Wan|
|Phase 7:||1994 September||La Vista & Bijou Hamlet||238||Tai Pak Wan|
|Phase 8:||1995 May||La Costa||319||Tai Pak Wan|
|Phase 9:||2000 May||La Serene||181||Tai Pak Wan|
|Phase 10:||2000 January||Neo Horizon||219||Yi Pak Wan|
|Phase 11:||2002 February||Siena One||298||Yi Pak Wan|
|Phase 12:||2003 March||Siena Two||757||Yi Pak Wan|
|Phase 13:||2007 December||Chianti||520||Yi Pak Wan|
|Phase 14:||2011 March||AMALFI||164||Yi Pak Wan|
Community, recreation and entertainment
Community life centres on DB Plaza, a commercial hub containing a bus terminus, ferry pier, an open piazza, and a range of shops including a supermarket, specialty stores, medical and dental clinics, and a veterinary surgery.
DB Plaza is also has many international themed restaurants, bars and food outlets.
Amenities include: a beach at Tai Pak Bay; four private membership recreational clubs including a 27-hole golf course and a marina (where some people live on house boats); natural streams and rock pools: a bicycle track alongside Discovery Bay Road; an astro-turf football pitch; basketball courts; children's playgrounds scattered around the developments and hiking paths leading to other parts of Lantau Island - including the Trappist Haven Monastery and Mui Wo.
However, this falls far short of the developer's obligation to provide them under the Land Grant, Outline Zoning Plan and Approval Letter for the extended development under the original master plan. A Community Centre / Indoor Recreation Centre was finally completed in 2007, seven years after the extended development in Yi Pak was approved. It was handed over to government-appointed operators in April 2009.
DB is a fifteen-minute to twenty-five-minute bus ride from Tung Chung.
- Clubs in DB
(All are private clubs with separate membership fees)
- Discovery Bay Recreation Club and Club Siena (DBRC)
- Discovery Bay Marina Club (DBMC)
- Discovery Bay Golf Club (DBGC)
Housing units in DB used to be sold with a DBRC debenture (and later a right to join the club), although residents can choose whether to be active members and pay a monthly subscription. DBRC members are automatically members of Club Siena. Debentures of DBMC and DBGC are traded in the secondary market.
The Marina opens into Nim Shue Wan, a bay to the south of DB. There is also a public landing stage for cargo boats and privately operated kat-to ferries that link DB to nearby Peng Chau Island and the Trappist Haven Monastery pier about 2 km to the south. Kai-tos replaced the high-speed ferry to Mui Wo (Silvermine Bay) operated by Discovery Bay Transportation Services Limited (DBTPL).
Landscape and wildlife
As with most of the terrain in Hong Kong, Lantau Island seems to be a set of hills that rise out of the water. DB is wedged between the hills and the sea and both environments are accessible from the edges of the developed areas. The hills directly behind DB reach up to 465 m (1,526 ft), and the hiking trails that traverse all the peaks on Lantau Island are accessible from those hills. The hills of Lantau tend to fall dramatically into jungle-covered valleys that spread up into verdant, grass-covered hills. DB has a series of rock pools which lead to one such valley and into a man-made addition to the water-drainage system. The DB reservoir collects and distributes water to the community, but, owing to the topography of the area, rainwater build-up is dangerously high, and so connected pathways of cement were built to deal with the torrential rain of the monsoon season. These huge aqueducts empty out into the sea, flowing over natural rock formations, creating pools and waterfalls of fresh rainwater. (Note: DB has switched to Government potable water supply since December 2000)
DB is home to animals of many kinds, most of which are domesticated pets. There are, however, a number of wild species that lived or are living on Lantau Island that can be found in and around DB. Most of these creatures are birds such as finches, tits, gulls and kites, however pelicans, loons and herons have been sighted. Birds were adaptable to the growing human population, though, and have remained unperturbed by the expansion of DB. Until the construction of the new Hong Kong International Airport in Chek Lap Kok, wild cattle and water buffalo thrived in the pasture-like hills. Increasingly vigorous development all over Hong Kong has reduced the habitat of the local dolphin and whale populations. The most famous of these is the Chinese White Dolphin, often called the Pink Dolphin due to a slight pinkish cast to their skin. (See Environment of Hong Kong)
DB has always been a green town. It has clinched the Green Property Management Award (Private Housing) in 2002. To make DB a greener town, DBSML, the management company of DB, has replaced conventional ballasts with energy-saving tubes. The number of lights in common corridors and main entrances of buildings were re-assessed and unnecessary lights were removed. It was thought that a 30% reduction in electricity charges was achieved in La Vista, one of the villages. Apart from energy reduction, flea market, old books collection, old clothes collection and used household items collection have been held on a regular basis in order to promote recycling.
DB is accessible from the rest of Hong Kong via a road tunnel to the North Lantau Expressway and by a 24-hour ferry service.
All services (except Kai-to services) accept Hong Kong's Octopus card as well as cash. Half-price discounts are offered to children, senior citizens and students under the age of 18 on the external bus and ferry routes.
Scheduled external public transport services include:
- A 24-hour ferry service plies between DB Pier on Tai Pak Bay and Pier 3 in Central District on Hong Kong Island (journey time of approximately thirty minutes; frequency of around 15–30 minutes during day time, and 60–90 minutes from 00:00 -06:00. Current ticket prices (April 2009 http://www.dbay.com.hk/icms2/template?series=25&article=3606) is HKD$31 for a single journey; with an overnight surcharge of HKD$13 between 00:00-06:00. The ferry service also accept single-trip tokens and stored trip transport cards (T-Cards and Octopus Card). Since 2005, ferries have been equipped with free on-board Wi-Fi wireless broadband Internet, which is unique not only in Hong Kong but across Asia.
- Kai-to ferries operated by an independent operator link DB to nearby Peng Chau Island (via Trappist Haven Monastery) and Mui Wo, also on Lantau Island (journey time approximately 10 and 20 minutes respectively)
Ferries were the only way to reach Discovery Bay until the opening of the DB Tunnel in 2000. Ferries remain the main way to reach DB and are operated by DBTPL, a wholly owned subsidiary of HKR. The route between DB and Central is served by monohull and catamaran waterjets manufactured by Marinteknik in Singapore; seating 300 and 500 passengers respectively.
In 2000, a 2.4 km road tunnel linking DB to the North Lantau Expressway opened, enabling access to DB by road - and shortening the journey to other parts of Lantau, Kowloon and the New Territories. From the tunnel's inauguration, shuttle bus services ran to Tung Chung and the Hong Kong International Airport in Chek Lap Kok, and shortly after the opening of Hong Kong Disneyland and the Sunny Bay MTR station in September 2005, an additional route between Sunny Bay and DB was launched, further shortening the time to reach Kowloon and New Territories.
The five external bus routes are operated by Discovery Bay Transit Services Limited (DBTSL), another wholly owned subsidiary of HKR:
- DB01R: From DB Plaza to Tung Chung MTR station (journey time approximately 15–20 minutes; frequency of every 20 minutes during day time, every 10 minutes at peak hours).
- DB02R: From DB Plaza to Hong Kong International Airport in Chek Lap Kok (via Cathay City; journey time approximately 20–30 minutes; frequency of every 30 minutes during day time, every 60 minutes at midnight hours, 24-hour service)
- DB02A: From DB(N) Commercial Centre to Hong Kong International Airport in Chek Lap Kok (via Cathay City; journey time approximately 20–30 minutes; frequency of every 60 minutes during day time)
- DB03R: From DB Plaza to Sunny Bay MTR station (journey time approximately 15–20 minutes; frequency of every 20 minutes during day time, every 5–8 minutes at peak hours).
- DB03P: From DB(N) Commercial Centre to Sunny Bay MTR station (journey time approximately 15–20 minutes; frequency of every 30 minutes during day time, every 20 minutes at peak hours).
Commuting within DB is done via a 24-hour internal shuttle bus service operated by DBTSL, which runs between various parts of DB and the Bus Terminus by the DB Plaza/the ferry pier. Travelling between the various villages by bus requires a change at the Bus Terminus. The same applies for residents not living on a direct connection to the schools, churches and most of the clubs. Yet, residents can use the hire car service which is operates as a point-to-point minibus shuttle service (e.g. operating on a basis similar to SuperShuttle airport services in the States). Residents can also drive their own golf carts or bicycles to travel around DB as an alternative.
A key icon of DB is the use of golf carts to commute from one part of DB to another. The number of golf carts is highly restricted by the Transport Department to a total of 500 vehicles and demand for golf carts can push prices up to around HK$2,200,000 each – almost as expensive as a brand new luxury car. The DB golf carts are petrol powered.
The presence of golf carts (with a much slower maximum speed than normal private cars) creates a safer road environment than many other places in Hong Kong, especially compared with the road traffic density in other parts of the territory. As such, DB has gained a reputation for its child and pet-friendly environment and has become a popular residential choice for families with young children or pets.
A number of schools and colleges operate in Discovery Bay, ranging from kindergartens to secondary schools. This ranges from government-subsidised to private schools.
Schools located within Discovery Bay include:
- Discovery Bay International School (DBIS), an English language private international primary and early secondary school providing education from Year 1 to Year 10. It is known the school will continue to build up to Year 13.
- Discovery College, a primary and secondary 'through-train' school set up under the government's Private Independent Schools scheme. The College opened for the 2008-2009 academic year, currently operating from Year 1 to Year 12; and
- SKH Wei Lun Primary School, a Chinese language government aided Anglican primary school providing education from Year 1 to Year 6.
Nursery and kindergartens operating within Discovery Bay include:
- Discovery Montessori school (DMS), located in the north plaza,
- Discovery Bay International School (DBIS) Kindergarten, an English language private international kindergarten;
- Discovery Mind Kindergarten (DMK), a private kindergarten operating Chinese and English sessions; and
- Sunshine House, an English language private international kindergarten.
- La Petite Enfance Kindergarten, a French language private international kindergarten.
Schools in Discovery Bay, however, do not serve the whole child and young people population in Discovery Bay. Many primary and secondary school aged children, travel by ferry to various schools located on Hong Kong Island, or by bus to the those in Tung Chung and the Kwai Tsing District.
A further site has been earmarked for the development of a Catholic 'through train' School. However, as of August 2009, this is still at the proposed stage.
DB is owned and developed by HKR, the developer. Discovery Bay Services Management Limited (DBSML), a subsidiary of HKR, manages the development. DB used to have its own private water supply from a reservoir and water treatment plant located near the golf course in the mountain valley above the estate. Since DB Tunnel opened in 2000, DB has been connected to the municipal supply from the Water Supplies Department which sources its water both from reservoirs throughout Hong Kong, Lantau Island and the New Territories and from the Pearl River Delta in the Mainland. Current municipal facilities inside DB include a fire station and ambulance depot, a post office and a police reporting post. These facilities were built by the developer and services rendered by various government bodies.
With the opening of the DB Tunnel in 2000, the Government deemed the police station and fire station/ambulance depot unnecessary, and DB relies on services provided by the headquarters in Tung Chung. A Community Centre has also been built at the Yi Pak Bay and it should have been handed over to and operated by the Government in 2005.
Issues and criticisms
Like many developments, DB has its own share of issues. An oft-made complaint is that DB is expensive compared to the rest of Hong Kong; from its member-only recreation and entertainment clubs to its limited shopping options and expensive restaurants. Furthermore, various groups such as teenagers and the elderly complain that there are few activities catered to them. Plans have been made to open a skating area for the former, also to be used as a Tai-Chi area for the latter. However, although an area has been paved for this purpose, the opening is stalled as discussions with nearby residents are still being held.
Discovery bay has only one current sport ground at the moment, the astroturf next to the community centre located in the north plaza (there is also a pitch located in-between the two Primary schools) which is something that the Discovery Bay community feels that they need at the moment. With the amount of space in this area, residents feel that a sports ground is needed. Sport is very popular in Discovery Bay with a number of sport teams. Recently, there was a protest in the plaza to let Hong Kong Resorts know that everybody wants a sports ground. The government refuses to provide any assistance or land.
A frequent complaint is with regard to its transportation. Whereas other parts of Hong Kong are generally well served by frequent transport options from competing operators, DB is served solely by DBTSL and DBTPL, both subsidiaries of HKR. These services, while reliable, may take longer than the advertised times depending on weather and traffic conditions.
Ferry dispute, 2008-2009
On 8 October 2008, the sole ferry service operator DBTPL proposed to increase the ferry fares between Discovery Bay and Central up to 64 per cent. A questionnaire received by residents from Discovery Bay Transportation Services proposes an increase of 16 per cent to 64 per cent. The frequency of services would depend on the size of the increase. People living in the Lantau Island community were given only a week to respond to the plan - and told they face a choice: accept higher fares or the scaling down of services. A single ride now costs HK$27, or HK$23.20 in 50-trip tickets (Child tickets are HK$17.00). Under the lowest fare-rise option, the number of services on weekdays would fall by 113 to just 40. Under this option, ferries would only travel every 70 minutes even during the morning peak. Overnight ferries could also be scrapped in favour of a coach service from Central. Residents also have the choice of taking buses to Sunny Bay and Tung Chung MTR stations. The ferry operator said in a letter to residents that annual fuel expenses had risen from HK$20 million in 2001 to a projected HK$80 million this year and it had been operating at a deficit, with an accumulated loss of more than HK$120 million since 2001.
District Councillor Amy Yung Wing-sheung, who lives in Discovery Bay, said the company was not conducting a proper consultation. She said the company had gone ahead with its plan after proposals were rejected unanimously at a recent Passenger Liaison Group meeting. HKR International is upset that its monopolised ferry service to its monopolised residential complex at Discovery Bay is not making enough money for the executives of HKRI to continue living anywhere but Discovery Bay. The monopolized project with too close an association with the government. This monopoly is evident in the ferry and bus services, the commercial sites, the shops available and the sale of flats. The residents of Discovery Bay think that it is time that this monopoly was reviewed.
Some believe that regardless of what the residents of Discovery Bay may think, the reason for the monopoly is because HKRI built the development through private funds and are entitled to do what they like to ensure the company maximizes profits for the benefit of its shareholders. They believe, essentially, that no one is forced to live in Discovery Bay and they should move if they don't like it. Others believe that as a part of Hong Kong the same access should be allowed as in other areas and that development by a private company does not give that company the right to exert total control over a neighborhood.
HKRI has come up with a new proposal which calls for a 27.5% increase (for 50 trip holders) and a 33.3% increase (for single trips). Furthermore frequencies are to be reduced from 113 sailings a day to 80. After midnight services will be replaced by a coach service. Residents are still concerned that this is still a substantial increase given the current economic situation and fuel prices have fallen below US$50.00. Sources have also revealed that HKRI pays HK$9.00 per litre where other ferry operators pay around HK$5.50 per litre. The eventual deal agreed with the Transport Department (TD) was for single fares of HK$31 per journey with an overnight surcharge of HK$13 per journey between 00:00 and 06:00. This represented a general price increase of 10% - far above inflation in the current economic climate; but still more reasonable than the original proposals by the operator.
Of note, another residential development nearby, called Park Island, charges HK$16.40 for adults and HK$8.20 for children under the age of 12 and elderly people aged 65 or above for a similar ferry service between the development and Central, Hong Kong. However Park Island differs to Discovery Bay in that it was a government funded project and therefore some believe comparing ferry prices is inherently different on that basis. Others believe that comparing ferry prices is comparable regardless of the funding of buildings in an area or neighborhood.
As an ongoing residential development, construction sites, continual renovation work to many increasingly older apartments and the subsequent dust and noise is an ever-present issue in DB. Buildings are generally renovated every seven years, in compliance with the government regulations.
A number of Green groups are pushing for the re-introduction of electric golf carts, replacing the current petrol powered golf carts. However, this is being faced with some resistance of the management company and residents as there are other green priorities including upgrading of the buses to Euro standards.
- HKR International Limited - Our Businesses - Property Development & Investment - Discovery Bay http://www.hkri.com/icms2/template?series=407&article=5473&leftside1=406&leftside2=5455&menuon=1&submenuon=1 ("As of mid-2011, about 18,000 people (over 50% of them were non-Chinese) resided in the multi-cultural community of Discovery Bay.")
- Audit Department of the Hong Kong Government Report No. 43 of the Director of Audit - Chapter 6: Grant of Land at Discovery Bay and Yi Long Wan, November 2004 http://www.aud.gov.hk/pdf_e/e43ch06_summary.pdf
- per Huggins JA, ANSTALT NYBRO (formerly named ANSTALT SORO) v HONG KONG RESORT CO. LTD. CACV45/1978, 16 August 1978
- US Department of State diplomatic cables, 17 August 1977
- Where Empires Collided: Russian and Soviet Relations with Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao, Michael B. Share
- Draft Discovery Bay Outline Zoning Plan approved http://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/200303/21/0321086.htm
- First Wi-Fi Service on Ferries in Asia commences in Discovery Bay http://www.hkri.com/cms1/hkr/hkr2771.html
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