Government notes Maryknoll Convent School's decision to remove Norfolk Island Pine

The Government understood and concurred with the decision of Maryknoll Convent School to remove an Araucaria heterophylla (Norfolk Island Pine) tree on the school campus in order to protect the safety of the students and teachers as well as the public, a Development Bureau spokesman said today (February 4). The Government would co-operate with the school and provide assistance in the matter.

Both the Government and the school attach great importance to the preservation of the tree. The Government has been working with the school to devise feasible preservation measures since July last year.

Recently, the school carried out drainage renovation works on campus. The contractor damaged some of the main roots of the tree when carrying out drainage excavation works in the tree's vicinity. The school immediately stopped the works.

After thorough inspection, the tree experts confirmed that the root system of the tree had been severely and irreparably damaged and the soil structure supporting the tree had been altered. The health of the tree has deteriorated with a dwindled chance of survival.  Moreover, the tree structure has become unstable and poses a risk of collapse, endangering the safety of passers-by and road-users. The school and the Government have studied the feasibility of constructing emergency and long-term support structures for the tree. However, as the construction works takes time and there is a risk of the tree toppling over during the construction period, this option was not adopted.

The school informed the Government that having considered the tree experts' assessments on the condition of the tree, the assessment on the feasibility of constructing temporary and long-term support structures, the risk of tree collapse and the danger posed to the public, the school had decided to remove the tree as soon as possible. To support greening and tree preservation, the school will plant a new tree on the school campus.

The spokesman for the Development Bureau said that the Government has always attached importance to tree preservation. Nevertheless, in preserving trees, we should also take into account the health and survival rate of the tree as well as the feasibility of the remedial measures. The Government noted Maryknoll Convent School's decision to remove the tree and agreed that the safety of students, teachers and the public should come first.

The spokesman said, "We will keep in close contact with the school and assist it in the safe removal of the tree."

Ends/Thursday, February 4, 2010
Issued at HKT 15:41