Development Bureau releases information on tree inspection

The Tree Management Office (TMO) of the Development Bureau published today (July 16) on its tree website ( for public access information on trees for which the tree management departments have carried out detailed inspection but which are still subject to continuous monitoring.

A spokesman for the Development Bureau said, "The main objectives of releasing the information is to enhance the transparency of our tree risk management work and to promote community-wide surveillance, with a view to encouraging active public participation in tree care."

The information released includes the location, species and condition of 1,154 trees, their management departments and mitigation measures. For easy identification of these trees by the public, the information on the website includes photos of the trees and, in some cases, location maps as well.

The list released is not a "list of hazardous trees". The trees on the list may broadly be classified into two categories. The first category covers trees that need particular care and attention, including 504 trees in the Register of Old and Valuable Trees (OVTs) and 398 stonewall trees that are not OVTs. The current health and structural condition of most of these trees are good. However, with the growth of the trees and changes in their environment, there may be changes in their condition. Due to their importance and specific conditions, departments will pay particular attention to them and will continue to monitor their situation. Their inclusion on the list will facilitate public surveillance to protect these valuable trees. 

The second category comprises 252 trees that have been inspected by the tree management departments under the new tree risk assessment arrangement and continuous monitoring is deemed necessary due to health, structural or other reasons. Following the completion of detailed tree inspections, departments are now carrying out mitigation measures (such as pruning, treatment of pests and diseases, and installation of structural support) for these trees. As some of the mitigation measures (for example treatment for pests and diseases) may take some time to show effect, these trees have been included on the list to facilitate monitoring. Once the mitigation measures for individual trees have been completed and the trees concerned do not require further monitoring as they no longer pose a threat to public safety, they will be removed from the list. On the other hand, during the continuous tree risk assessment process, other trees will be included on the list for which follow-up action or monitoring is deemed necessary subsequent to inspections, and that the public should be informed of. In other words, the tree list will be updated from time to time for public information.

The spokesman explained that following the recommendations in the report entitled "People, Trees, Harmony", which was published by the Task Force on Tree Management led by the Chief Secretary for Administration in June 2009, the Development Bureau developed and implemented, in collaboration with the tree management departments, the tree risk assessment arrangements in January 2010 to better protect public safety.

In essence, the objective of tree risk assessment is to reduce the risk to public safety and property posed by trees that may have problems at locations with high pedestrian and vehicular flow by taking timely action to deal with these trees through systematic methodology and procedures.  

Under the tree risk assessment methodology adopted by the TMO, the tree management departments identified about 2,000 trees requiring detailed inspection in the few months up to July 13, 2010.  Some of them require mitigation measures, such as pruning, treatment of pests and diseases, and cabling and propping. The departments have already completed the follow-up actions for about 800 of these trees. Hence, these 800 trees are not included on the tree list announced.

"Although the tree management departments have stepped up tree risk assessment work under the guidance of the TMO and have carried out mitigation measures, given the large number of trees all over the territory, the Government hopes that by promoting community-wide surveillance, we can work hand in hand with the public to carry out tree risk management work more effectively," the spokesman said.  

The public can report problematic trees by calling the government hotline 1823.  Operating round the clock, the 1823 call centre centrally processes public enquiries and complaints. Staff will obtain detailed information on trees from enquirers or complainants, and will refer these cases quickly to the responsible departments for follow-up. They will also monitor the progress of each case and keep the complainant posted on the latest developments.

Furthermore, to facilitate public surveillance, new "Tree Care Report" standard forms (including e-forms and forms for download) are available on the tree website for members of the public to report suspected problematic trees to the TMO for follow-up action by departments.   The TMO has also prepared a pictorial guide to explain how to identify health and structural problems of trees. The pictorial guide has been uploaded to the tree website for reference by the public. Copies have also been distributed to owners' incorporations and property management companies. The TMO will promote knowledge of tree care among community organisations and students in due course.  

Tree risk assessment is not a one-off exercise. It needs to be carried out continuously as part of day-to-day tree maintenance work. As trees are living organisms, their health and structural conditions will change with their life cycle and their surroundings, especially in inclement weather.

The Development Bureau will continue to co-ordinate with the tree management departments to ensure that tree risk assessment and tree maintenance are carried out conscientiously. During the typhoon and rainy season, tree management departments will stay vigilant and closely monitor changes in tree conditions and the level of risk to safety so that appropriate follow-up action will be taken in a timely manner. Meanwhile, the TMO has stepped up random inspection of the trees under the care of individual departments. It will also provide departments with professional advice, share expertise with them, and will continue to provide training on tree risk management and tree maintenance to departmental staff in the light of their operational needs.

Ends/Friday, July 16, 2010
Issued at HKT 18:02