AFTER a wait of almost a decade, Seremban is all set to officially join the ranks of most Malaysian state capitals to be accorded city status.
In recent years, this town once known as Sungei Ujong has experienced rapid development and seen a spike in population as more people opt to move south of Kuala Lumpur to acquire cheaper landed properties.
Seremban has also long shed its reputation as a retirement paradise and is today a vibrant and bustling town with a clutch of new townships and commercial parks.
This has contributed positively to its growth and bodes well for the future with the soon-to-be-launched Malaysian Vision Valley (MVV) project.
Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, who expects Negri Sembilan to register a growth of at least 4.5% for 2017, said it was no easy task to get Seremban declared a city.
“The Federal Government gave us the okay to be called a city back in 2012 but my team wanted to make sure things were in order before we could call ourselves a bandaraya.
“I am happy that we have already sorted out a lot of things in recent years and are now ready for city status,” he said.
Mohamad, who believes Seremban will be officially declared a city within the next few months, said his administration had applied for the status back in 2008 but took a step back upon realising that the state lacked proper infrastructure and other public amenities.
“We were then still in the midst of improving things such as housing, public transportation, garbage collection, inter-town connectivity, public infrastructure and an improved road network.
“My team found some of these services wanting and decided against pursuing the city status further. We started working to better our services before we could claim to be a city,” he said.
Mohamad’s team has since worked tirelessly to, among others, formulate a new housing policy unique to the state which makes it compulsory for developers to build more affordable homes, ensuring better public transport connectivity, a new redevelopment plan for Seremban as well as looking at ways to increase production of treated water supply.
It came up with a new housing policy, where developers were told that 20% of all units they built in a particular project had to comprise houses costing less than RM80,000.
The next 15% should cost less than RM250,00 and another 15% less than RM400,000.
For a win-win situation, builders were free to set the prices for the rest of the new houses. The previous ruling that they should build low-cost houses was abolished.
He said to encourage more people to own homes, the state government, in collaboration with developers in the state, set up a web page which allowed potential buyers to look for properties under construction.
“They can see where the properties are being built and the best thing is that the web page runs on real time.
“This way, a potential buyer will know where these properties are being built in the state even if he is halfway across the world,” he said, adding that the site perumahan.ns.gov.my was recently launched.
Mohamad and his team also worked hard to amalgamate the Seremban and Nilai municipal councils to pave the way for the setting of the Seremban City Council.
This, he said was among the actions taken to standardise assessment and quit rent rates in the new city.
A visionary project
Apart from the city status for Seremban, the other major development this year is the launch of the 124,000ha MVV project encompassing the Seremban-Nilai-Port Dickson growth triangle, which will be developed over a 30-year period at a gross value of RM640bil.
Some have touted it as a new economic corridor altogether with the project being divided into clusters for residential, business, manufacturing and education-cum-sports.
“Our focus this year will include the construction of the Integrated Transport Terminal (ITT) to be built near the high speed rail station in Labu.
“We need to build that hub for better connectivity including to places such as KLIA and KLIA2,” he said, adding that the ITT would also have provisions for tram and MRT services.
For better road connectivity, Mohamad said the authorities would also construct an expressway linking Seremban and KLIA. There is a pressing need for a direct link due to the sharp increase in traffic.
“The traffic volume is very high and we often get traffic jams in places like Sepang, Salak Tinggi and Bandar Baru Nilai during peak hours,” he said, adding that a direct link would also reduce congestion at another stretch which runs through Gadong-Sendayan-Bandar Enstek.
Mohamad’s administration has appointed an international advisory panel to help it plan the MVV and to incorporate the soon-to-be built metropolis with modern facilities available in major cities worldwide.
He said the opening of the state’s first Urban Transformation Centre (UTC) in Ampangan near Seremban in November was testament to efforts by the authorities to provide better service to the rakyat.
Several government departments such as the Immigration, National Registration and Road Transport departments operate at the UTC from 8.30am to 9.30pm every day except on public holidays.
Also housed in the same complex are other agencies such as the National Higher Education Fund Corporation, Pilgrims Fund Board or Tabung Haji and Syarikat Air Negri Sembilan.
“We already have a rural transformation centre in Rembau. The opening of such centres allows people to access government services without having to go into town. This reduces congestion at the main offices saves the rakyat time, money and a lot of inconvenience,” he said.
Mohamad said his administration has also applied to the federal authorities to open another rural transformation centre in Bandar Baru Serting.
Protecting the environment
Safeguarding the environment has also been the priority of Mohamad’s administration. It prohibited the clearing of forest and cutting of hills for the widening of the Seremban-Kuala Pilah stretch near Bukit Putus a few years ago and instead, endorsed a proposal for the construction of a new elevated stretch which only required minimal felling of trees.
“As administrators, we have the responsibility to protect the environment for our future generations.
“We cannot allow destruction of our forests or risks to our rivers and water catchment areas at any cost,” he said
The state has also turned away several potential investors who wished to set up operations here upon discovering that these businesses could pose risk to the surroundings.
Recently, Mohamad’s administration gazetted eight hectares off Cape Rachado in Port Dickson as a marine park.
This was to protect corals and other marine life in the area.
Mohamad has also openly stated that the state government will no longer entertain applications for the opening up of poultry farms on a commercial basis.
“In some areas, we have a big problem with flies because many operators refuse to shift to the closed system of farming.
“Since we have enough supply of chicken meat and eggs, we rather not have more farms in the state,” he said, adding that even five-star hotels in Port Dickson were not spared by the flies.
Mohamad said his administration has also embarked on a plan to ensure all those occupying government land under the Temporary Occupation License (TOL) did not violate any of the permit’s conditions.
A survey conducted by his administration showed that many such license holders have built permanent structures on these plots and this violated conditions of the TOL.
“This has become rampant and has to stop. In fact, we also have holders who have grown oil palm trees on these plots but they paid a mere RM20 to us in license fee,” he said.
Mohamad said the state government was working on a “rent-lease” concept where those occupying government land would be required to fork out more if they had built permanent structures on the land.
He said the “rent-lease” concept was a better arrangement as the TOL holders would not have to worry about being asked to move out after the permit expires.
“By paying a little more, they would be able to live there for many years.
“It will be a win-win situation as they will be able to continue with their businesses without having to worry of being evicted anytime,” he added.