LCQ3: Tree collapse incident

Following is a question by the Hon Tanya Chan and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (July 7):


On June 14 this year, a member of the public was killed in a tree collapse incident in Yuen Chau Kok Park, Sha Tin.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) given that the authorities have indicated that they have been conducting detailed analysis and study of the aforesaid tree collapse incident, whether the analysis and study will include if the inspections conducted before the collapse of the tree is sufficient, causes of the tree collapse and the issue of responsibility for the incident, etc.; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) given that it has been reported that 16 trees in the vicinity of the collapsed tree were removed after the aforesaid incident, whether the decision to remove the trees has gone through the vetting and approving procedure of the Tree Preservation Board under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department; if it has, of the details, including the vetting and approved date and the justifications; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) whether the aforesaid incident will cause the authorities to examine afresh the need for enacting specific legislation for tree management; if so, of the details, including the work plan and timetable for drafting the legislation; if not, the reasons for that?



The Government is very concerned about the recent tree collapse incident.  The Development Bureau has enhanced coordination with, as well as steer to, the tree management departments to ensure that precautionary measures are implemented conscientiously.  Departments pay special attention to trees that may have problems at locations with high pedestrian or vehicular flow and take follow-up actions promptly to protect public safety.

My reply to the three parts of the question is as follows:

(a) The Police have commenced investigation into the tree collapse incident that occurred on a cycle track in Yuen Chau Kok, Sha Tin in mid-June this year, with the cooperation of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD).  It is not appropriate for the Government to make further comments on the case at the present stage.

(b) After the tree collapse incident, LCSD conducted detailed inspections of 420 trees in the vicinity of the site of the incident and removed 16 of them.  Although those trees removed did not pose imminent danger, their conditions had deteriorated after days of rain and had potential danger.  After inspection, staff of LCSD confirmed that no mitigation measures could be taken to save these trees and LCSD decided to remove the 16 trees.  The tree removal followed the established procedures, i.e. the Regional Tree Team Manager agreed to the tree removal after inspection and the cases were reported to the Tree Preservation Board with detailed reasons afterwards.

(c) The Task Force on Tree Management led by the Chief Secretary for Administration conducted a comprehensive review last year and concluded, after careful consideration, that it was not necessary to amend the legislation for the time being.  Instead, a multi-pronged approach to implement various administrative measures should be adopted to enhance the professional standard of tree management work on all fronts.  For instance, the Development Bureau should steer and coordinate the work of the tree management departments at both the policy and strategic level; proper tree planting and maintenance practices should be adopted; staff training should be enhanced; in particular, tree risk management should be strengthened with protection of public safety as the primary consideration.  These measures would only achieve results through solid work carried out in a pragmatic and continuous manner rather than by merely having a piece of legislation.

As reflected from the recent tree collapse incident occurring in an area under the jurisdiction of the Government, this is not an issue of statutory control.  Rather, there is room for enhancement in our day-to-day tree management and risk assessment.  I have given a written reply to the question raised by the Hon Chan Hak-kan today regarding tree management, setting out relevant specific measures in detail.  I shall not repeat them here.

To my understanding, advocacy for tree management legislation generally focuses on trees managed by private owners.  Although Government has no intention of introducing tree legislation for the time being, we recognise that there is a need to enhance public awareness of tree risk management.  The Tree Management Office has sent leaflets on "Pictorial Guide for Tree Maintenance to Reduce Tree Risks" and "Keep your Trees Safe" to owners' corporations, mutual aid committees and property management companies of all private residential estates in Hong Kong to remind private property owners and property management companies to inspect the trees within their premises to reduce risks.  

President, members of the public would like our city to be filled with verdant trees.  They should also be actively involved in tree management to ensure public safety.  The top priority for the Development Bureau and the tree management departments at present is to press ahead with the improvement measures to achieve concrete results.  We will review the effectiveness of these measures in due course before considering the need for legislative amendments.

Ends/Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Issued at HKT 14:35