LCQ4: Tree preservationFollowing is a question by the Hon Tanya Chan and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (January 7):
At present, more than 500 trees in Hong Kong with cultural, historic or conservation value have been included in the Register of Old and Valuable Trees. However, no specific legislation has been enacted for the conservation of trees in Hong Kong. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether presently, there is any conservation plan specifically made for the Register of Old and Valuable Trees to ensure the preservation and healthy growth of the trees listed therein; if so, of the details of the plan, and whether the Government will review the plan; if there is no such plan, whether the Government will consider initiating the relevant study and work out a conservation plan in the near future;
(b) whether presently, it has plans to introduce specific legislation for caring trees; if so, of the details and present progress of such work; if not, whether the Government will initiate the relevant study in the near future; if it will not, of the reasons for that; and
(c) what measures are presently adopted by the Government to ensure that trees with conservation value (such as the wall trees in the Wan Chai and Central & Western districts, as well as the trees outside the country parks in the rural areas of the New Territories) will not be felled indiscriminately?
The Government is paying considerable attention to greening and protection of trees. The concerned departments have been taking forward conservation of trees in their respective ambits. I reply to the three parts of the question as follows:
(a) The Government established a Register of Old and Valuable Trees (OVT) in 2004 to strengthen the protection of trees with special value and issued a technical circular in the same year to promulgate a comprehensive scheme to conserve the trees on the register (Registered Trees). The scope of the conservation plan includes:
(i) On nomination and registration procedures, tree maintenance departments should draw up proper procedures to identify from the trees under their maintenance the ones likely to meet the criteria for registration as OVTs and should submit nominations to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) or the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) so that LCSD and AFCD may assess their suitability for inclusion on the Register of OVTs based on established criteria;
(ii) On tree inspection, the relevant departments should conduct regular inspections and monitor the health conditions of the Registered Trees within their maintenance responsibilities. LCSD or AFCD will conduct regular audit inspections at least once every year to appraise the health conditions of Registered Trees and may advise the maintenance departments to take follow-up actions when necessary;
(iii) On tree maintenance, LCSD or AFCD will provide expert advice and guidance on site to tree maintenance departments and their contractors when necessary;
(iv) On reporting the death of Registered Trees, tree maintenance departments should report the death of Registered Trees to LCSD or AFCD providing relevant information for investigation. If it is established that the concerned trees cannot be cured, LCSD will include a brief remark on the cause of the death on the Register of OVTs. LCSD or AFCD may also advise the tree maintenance departments to carry out compensatory planting on the original sites;
(v) On removal of Registered Trees, unless Registered Trees pose imminent danger to the public, their removal is prohibited. Under exceptional circumstances, the concerned departments may apply to the Lands Department (LandsD) for removal of Registered Trees affected by public works projects, subject to justifying that removal is the best and the only practicable option while giving necessary consideration to the feasibility of transplanting;
(vi) On public works projects, relevant public works contracts should include provisions requiring contractors to conserve the Registered Tree within their sites. If contractors damage or remove the Registered Trees within their sites without approval, their performance may be rated as poor thus affecting tendering opportunities for public works contracts. In accordance with the terms of the contracts, these contractors will also have to carry out compensatory planting at their own cost and to compensate government for the cost incurred in conserving, protecting and nurturing the Registered Trees;
(vii) On leasing of land, where Government land with Registered Tree is leased, LandsD will seek advice from AFCD or LCSD and formulate appropriate clauses for inclusion in the lease to ensure that the Registered Trees will be adequately conserved and nurtured. If Registered Trees on leased land are removed without approval, LandsD may request the owner to carry out compensatory planting and take lease enforcement actions in accordance with the terms of the lease.
The Government will closely monitor the protection and nurturing of Registered Trees and review the conservation plan when necessary. Furthermore, in 2007, LCSD set up a tree expert group comprising arborists, academics and professional tree maintenance personnel to advise the department on raising the standards on management and maintenance of OVTs and consider tree maintenance problems and solutions when necessary. Other maintenance departments will seek advice from and share their experience with LCSD on need basis.
(b) As regards tree protection, at present, there are several relevant ordinances for protection of trees with conservation value on Government land or private land, including:
* Forests and Countryside Ordinance (Cap 96)
* Country Parks Ordinance (Cap 208)
* Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap 132)
* Crimes Ordinance (Cap 200)
* Theft Ordinance (Cap 210)
* Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance (Cap 53)
Apart from legislation, the Government has adopted a series of administrative measures to ensure appropriate protection of trees on Government land. Furthermore, as regards private land, the Government has included tree preservation clauses in land leased since the 70's. For land leased before the 70's, when modifications of their leases are applied as a result of re-development, LandsD will take these opportunities to incorporate tree preservation clauses in so far as possible. Generally speaking, these clauses stipulate that land owners need to apply to LandsD before felling any trees on their land. After seeking advice from the concerned departments, LandsD will process the applications in accordance with rigorous criteria, including whether there are sufficient justifications for tree removal and acceptable compensatory planting plan. If trees protected by lease conditions are felled in contravention of these conditions, LandsD may request the owner to carry out compensatory planting and take lease enforcement actions in accordance with the relevant terms of the lease.
Having considered relevant legislations and administrative measures in place to protect trees of conservation value, the Government has no plan to enact specific legislation for tree protection.
(c) I have explained the present legislation and administrative measures for protecting trees with conservation value in parts (a) and (b) of the reply. These measures are also applicable to wall trees and trees in country side with conservation value.
Ends/Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Issued at HKT 14:46