Tree Management Office committed to continuously improve tree risk management to protect public safety

The Tree Management Office (TMO) of the Development Bureau, together with the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, will actively follow up on the recommendations made by the Coroner's Court on the cause of death of a passer-by during a tree collapse incident in Yuen Chau Kok, Sha Tin, in 2010.  A spokesman for the Development Bureau expressed deep grief and sympathy over the death of Mr Choi Kit-keung and once again extended heartfelt condolences to his family.

Since its establishment in March 2010, TMO has been striving to raise the standard of tree management in Hong Kong, particularly in enhancing tree risk management to better protect public safety.

The tree risk management arrangement promulgated by the TMO has made reference to tree risk assessment methodologies widely adopted internationally.  Departments are required to carry out detailed inspection for trees that may require particular care (such as Old and Valuable Trees (OVTs) and stonewall trees) as well as trees with health or structural problems in those areas with high pedestrian or vehicular flow under their management; and take appropriate mitigation measures as necessary.

The TMO has further enhanced the tree risk management arrangements through implementation of the following measures since June 2010:

(1) Departments are required to closely supervise frontline staff and conduct internal audit on tree risk assessment.  In addition, the TMO carries out desktop checking of tree inspection forms completed by departments on a random selective basis as well as random inspection of trees on site for assurance of work quality;

(2) In the light of the experience gained by departments on tree risk assessment, the TMO has refined the guidelines on the conduct of tree risk assessment to enable departmental staff to better understand how to carry out tree risk assessment;

(3) The TMO has organised a series of tailor-made training courses to cater for the needs of frontline staff (including departmental staff and contractor staff).  In addition, the TMO will continue to provide more training opportunities for tree management departments in the light of their operational needs, and encourage staff at various levels to obtain professional qualifications in arboriculture with a view to generally raising the professional standard of tree management staff;

(4) The TMO has urged departments to handle tree complaints promptly to facilitate early identification of problematic trees and take timely follow-up actions.  The TMO will assist departments in dealing with complex cases; and

(5) The TMO encourages members of the public to help monitor trees in our community.  It has launched the Tree Register, which contains information on trees that have undergone detailed inspection by tree management departments but the mitigation measures for which have yet been completed as well as trees requiring attention (such as OVTs and stonewall trees).

"The TMO will carefully consider the recommendations of the Coroner's Court.  It will, in collaboration with the tree management departments, take proper care of our trees through continuous implementation of effective measures.  During the wet season this year, tree management departments will closely monitor the condition of their trees and take appropriate measures in a timely manner in order to minimise the risk to public safety," the spokesman said.

In view of the large number of trees in Hong Kong and since the health and structural conditions of trees change in step with their normal lifecycle as well as changes in the external environment, the TMO appeals for public support to surveillance of the trees in our community. The public are urged to report problematic trees to the Government through the 1823 Call Centre and the Tell me@1823 app.

Ends/Thursday, June 30, 2011
Issued at HKT 19:17