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LCQ4 : Trimming of trees

Following is a question by the Hon Choy So-yuk and a reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works, Dr Sarah Liao, in the Legislative Council meeting today (December 13) :

Question:

It has been reported that quite a number of trees have been damaged or have withered as a result of improper trimming.  Moreover, I have learnt that in a paper provided to the Sha Tin District Council on the construction of Trunk Road T4, the Government proposes extensively trimming four trees along Chung Ling Road in Sha Tin which have been listed on the Register of Old and Valuable Trees compiled by the Government.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  of the measures it has taken, including whether guidelines have been formulated, to enable people who are engaged in tree care or tree trimming to acquire the relevant knowledge and skills; if there are no guidelines, of the reasons for that, and whether it will formulate such guidelines;

(b)  how the Government promotes tree care knowledge among owners' associations and property management companies, and the expenditure incurred in this respect last year; and

(c)  whether prior approval is required for any person to trim any tree already listed on the Register of Old and Valuable Trees; if so, of the vetting and approving authority and procedure?

Reply:

Madam President,

(a)  Trees are valuable resources of Hong Kong and are important to the air quality and landscape of our living environment.  As such, Government departments responsible for tree care and pruning, such as the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, have put in place departmental guidelines.  In drawing up such guidelines, apart from making reference to international arboriculture standards such as the "British Standard 3998 - Recommendations for Tree Work", departments have also taken into account of the local conditions of Hong Kong as well as their own operational needs.

Staff responsible for tree care have to comply with the guidelines on tree pruning in their daily work.  To avoid damaging the form and affecting the healthy growth of trees, they have to have a clear understanding of the purpose of pruning as well as possess the required skills before performing the work.  Furthermore, for out-sourced pruning work, the contractors involved have to provide supervisory staff with expertise knowledge in horticulture and tree care.

(b)  On the front of promoting tree care knowledge among owners' associations and property management companies as enquired by the Hon Choy, Government has placed greater emphasis on the overall promotion of greening.  Relevant departments have in this respect organised a wide range of promotional activities such as tree planting, Greening School Subsidy Scheme, Green Volunteer Scheme, talks on horticulture, horticulture education exhibitions, greening of public housing estates, etc. to enable members of the public to participate in greening work.  We are also pleased to note that many voluntary agencies, schools and community organisations have actively participated in these activities.  In the past year, a total of around 1.2 million people have participated in greening promotional activities organised by LCSD.

Government has not specifically allocated resources for educating owners' associations and related associations about tree care since such parties generally hire their own landscaping contractors to take proper care of the plants including trees, etc. under their management.  We do not detect any major problems encountered by them.

(c)  As for pruning of trees listed in the Register of Old and Valuable Trees, we need to understand that generally pruning is a normal step in tree care, mainly because it helps trees to stay healthy and ensure that they would not cause problems to users in the vicinity.  For such reason, pruning of trees, including Old and Valuable Trees, is thus permitted in accordance with departmental guidelines.

However, should any capital works involve the pruning of registered trees, we require the departments concerned to assess all feasible options during the planning stage and consult tree maintenance departments and listen to the views of the public to minimise adverse impacts on these trees as far as possible.  Furthermore, during the course of works, we also require contractors to appoint independent qualified tree experts to conduct investigations and soil tests for the registered trees, including assessment of their health and adoption of related protection/monitoring measures.  This is to ensure that the registered trees are properly cared for and that their growth will not be adversely affected or damaged by the works concerned.

End/Wednesday, December 13, 2006
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