Chief Secretary for Administration on Report of Task Force on Tree Management

Following is the transcript (English portion) of remarks by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Henry Tang, Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, and Deputy Secretary for Development (Works), Miss Janet Wong, at a press conference to unveil the Report of the Task Force on Tree Management today (June 29):

Reporter: It appears you are creating more bureaucracy by setting up two new offices, in fact it's three, I think it's a new tree-unit in the Lands Department too. Wouldn't it be better if you pulled in more resources and manpower into the current departments who are in charge of trees. And can I also ask how much is this going to cost the Government when you set up these new offices and get in experts, etc?

Chief Secretary for Administration: We feel that based on our review, it is necessary to have an overall bureau to co-ordinate the management of trees as well as the landscaping of Hong Kong. Therefore, we feel that by setting up this new system, we will have better overall planning, as well as overall control and overall harmonisation of tree management in Hong Kong. Secondly, it is necessary, as in most other places that we have studied, that there is an authoritative agency or authoritative arm where we will have the appropriate expertise to determine that certain trees can be preserved or certain trees cannot be preserved, or what type of trees to plant where. That's why we decided to set up this system. We feel that after this system has been set up, we will have much better overall co-ordination and also we will have much better harmonisation among the departments.

Reporter: What about the cost?

Deputy Secretary for Development (Works): First of all, at the departmental level we still need to go through the process, that is to discuss with the individual departments the requirements in terms of manpower, and other aspects left to implement the recommendations of the report. I can tell you that at the bureau level, the whole new set-up that is headed by the D2 officer will comprise a total of about 20 posts. Of this, most of the new posts will be in the Tree Management Office and the others will be in the Greening and Landscape Office. For the Greening and Landscape Office, most of the resources will not be new resources because they can be redeployed from the Architectural Services Department as well as by internal redeployment in the Works Branch. At present we have only worked out the set-up at the bureau level. As for the total cost we will have to further pursue upon the release of the report and discussion with various departments concerned, and of course, internally with the finance leg of our government.

Secretary for Development: Since the offices are set up in Development Bureau, perhaps I should respond to that point. We are certainly not adding on to the bureaucracy because these two offices, basically one is an old office except that we are not organising it as such. The Greening and Landscape (Office) will be mostly deployed from staff that we have at the moment to do the greening master plan, and if you remember last year, with the support of the Legislative Council, we have created a new rank called the Chief Landscape Architect to try to improve and enhance Hong Kong's landscape planning. So this office is really just a redeployment and a re-organisation. The Tree Management Office is a new office but is not set up to duplicate existing work of the operational departments and will not substitute the work that they are doing. It is one of the recommendations in the Coroner's Court that there should be an independent department (the word "department" was used in the Chinese) to provide independent advice to the operational departments on risk management and so on. So, our response is very much in line in what the jury has recommended that we should have a focal point that will help to build up the expertise in risk management and also in setting the policy for future work in tree management.

Reporter: How can you ensure that overzealous officers will not go around cutting trees, because as we know it's cheaper to cut a tree than to make use of remedial measures to make sure that the tree is okay, because I'm sure you've heard the complaints in recent weeks that some trees are being indiscriminately felled by officers. Do you have any comment?

Chief Secretary for Administration: First of all, we do not agree that any tree has been indiscriminately cut down. All the trees that have been cut down have posed potential danger or danger to people or property, and they have been determined that they should be cut down. So we want to set that record straight. Secondly, it is also important that the reason we set up the tree management office is that cases where there are questions whether this tree should be preserved, or whether this tree should be cut down, or whether this tree is better cut down and then replant other trees in its place. The tree management office will be the authority to determine that. So it will be a better co-ordination as well as an authoritative voice as to whether trees should be kept, planted, cut down or preserved. Thank you very much.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Monday, June 29, 2009
Issued at HKT 19:18



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