LCQ13: Tree managementFollowing is a question by the Hon Leung Che-cheung and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (June 3):
The Member's Office of mine received a complaint alleging that some people felled a large number of healthy old trees aged over 100 years on private land. The complainant sought assistance from various government departments, but in vain. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the existing policies and relevant legislation on the maintenance and conservation of trees on government and private land;
(2) given that the Secretary for Development said last year that "regulating tree maintenance on private land has far-reaching implications, we must handle it carefully", whether the authorities are currently conducting a relevant study; if they are, of the progress and outcome; if not, the reasons for that;
(3) whether the Government will now consider, by following the approach adopted for protecting antiquities and monuments, enacting specific legislation for conserving old trees or precious trees with conservation value; if it will not, of the reasons for that;
(4) given that the Government has indicated that one of the prerequisites for the enactment of legislation on tree management is an adequate supply of personnel with relevant professional qualifications and experience to implement the relevant work, whether the Government has set any target on the number of tree management personnel with professional qualifications; of the specific work carried out in the past three years for the purpose of increasing the number of such personnel and the progress of such work; and
(5) of the latest progress of the enactment of tree legislation by the Government?
The Government adopts an "integrated approach" for the management of trees on Government land. Simply put, the department responsible for the maintenance of a particular site, including the slope and facilities, is also responsible for the maintenance of the trees thereon. Private property owners are also responsible for the proper maintenance of the trees within their properties.
(1) Existing ordinances related to the protection of trees on Government and private land include but not limited to the following:
Forests and Countryside Ordinance (Cap. 96);
Country Parks Ordinance (Cap. 208);
Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132);
Crimes Ordinance (Cap. 200);
Theft Ordinance (Cap. 210);
Summary Offences Ordinance (Cap. 228); and
Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance (Cap. 53).
For private lots that contain a tree preservation clause in their leases, the Lands Department (LandsD) will take action as appropriate on a case by case basis upon detection of any removal and pruning of trees within the leased lots without prior written consent from the LandsD. These actions include issuing warning letters to the lot owners and requiring the lot owners to carry out compensatory planting or pay a premium. Regardless of whether the clause requiring the private lot owner to properly maintain the trees within his lot is included in the lease, the lot owner is responsible for the proper management of his property, including the trees thereon. Private lot owners may be held liable for any casualty or property loss arising from their failure to properly maintain the trees within their properties.
(2) and (5) The Government keeps a cautiously open mind towards the proposal of legislating mandatory inspection of trees within private properties. To further understand the current situation of tree management in private properties, the TMO has undertaken a questionnaire survey with property management companies. The data collected will serve as reference for formulating policies.
The number of personnel with professional qualifications in arboriculture has grown in recent years in response to market demand. But given the huge number of trees in Hong Kong, we still need a large number of tree work personnel with appropriate education attainment, professional qualification and working experience to provide quality service in tree management and maintenance. To improve the service quality, the Government has accorded high priority to working with the industry in further enhancing the knowledge as well as skill and management standards of tree work personnel.
Currently, the TMO is planning a survey on the manpower resources of the arboricultural, horticultural and landscape management industries. The survey will help guide the planning of capacity building and enhance the professionalism of the industry.
In the course of these review and studies, the TMO has prepared a guideline on tree maintenance for the reference of private property owners and consultation of the industry and professional institutions. After the guideline is promulgated, we will consult the related government departments on enforcing the guideline through the building management legislation.
(3) As measures for preservation and maintenance of old or valuable trees (OVTs) are already in place, the Government has no intention to enact dedicated legislation for their protection. The policy on registration and preservation of OVTs has been set out in the Technical Circular ETWB TC(W) No. 29/2004 on Registration of Old and Valuable Trees, and Guidelines for their Preservation for the compliance of all government departments. Trees on government land may be considered for inclusion in the Register of Old and Valuable Trees (the Register) if they satisfy the following criteria:
* Tree of large size;
* Tree of precious or rare species;
* Tree of particularly old age (e.g. trees over 100 years old);
* Tree of cultural, historical or memorable significance; and
* Tree of outstanding form.
Trees listed in the Register are given special protection. Felling or removal of listed OVTs is strictly prohibited except in cases with very strong justifications, such as serious diseases. The area surrounding a listed OVT is designated tree protection zone where no construction work is allowed, except with prior approval from the LandsD.
(4) As regards training for tree management professionals, the Development Bureau has set up a Training Committee in 2010, as recommended in the Report of Task Force on Tree Management published in 2009, to formulate training and manpower development strategies. The objective is to ensure that the government departments and the industry have sufficient competent staff to duly perform managerial, supervisory and frontline duties in all areas of tree management. The Training Committee also conducts annual review on training demand for tree management and develops annual training programmes.
The Tree Management Office (TMO) pursues a two-pronged strategy in taking forward the training work. In the first place, the TMO continues to facilitate and assist academic and training institutions in organising relevant courses to meet the industry needs. New training courses in tree management and supervision offered in recent years include Certificate in Professional Tree Management programme (Qualification Framework (Q.F.) Level 3) of The Open University of Hong Kong; Advanced Diploma in Tree Management and Conservation programme (Q.F. Level 4) of HKU School of Professional and Continuing Education; and Professional Diploma in Horticulture and Landscape Management (Q.F. Level 4) of The Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong (THEi). The TMO has sponsored staff from government departments to attend these courses. Furthermore, two new programmes will be introduced in the 2015/16 academic year, namely an Associate Degree Programme in Tree Management (Q.F. Level 4) of the College of International Education of Hong Kong Baptist University and a Bachelor Degree Programme in Horticulture and Landscape Management (covering tree management/arboriculture) (Q.F. Level 5) of THEi.
To help the arboricultural industry in Hong Kong move towards professionalism and standardisation and the front-line practitioners gain professional recognition by enhancing their skills, the Vocational Training Council has introduced Arboriculture Vocational Assessment in 2014 with the encouragement and assistance of the TMO. The scope of assessment covers Safety Use and Maintenance of Chainsaw and Basic Tree Pruning. The TMO will continue to work with related institutions in organising other professionally recognised programmes related to arboriculture, including tree climbing and use of lifting platform.
On its part, the TMO has also organised training courses related to tree management for government personnel engaged in tree management work. These courses cover tree risk management, tree identification, common tree problems, pest and disease control, proper tree care measures and tree protection during construction works, etc. Some of these training courses are also open to government consultants and contractors' employees. The TMO has also conducted many seminars for the general public and professional bodies. The topics ranged from control and management of brown root rot disease, pre-wet season precautionary measures to tree management in private property. Since the establishment of Greening, Landscape and Tree Management Section in 2010, these seminars have recorded an annual attendance of around 6 000 people.
Ends/Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Issued at HKT 15:01