Hong Kong has many old heritage trees, which are being lost at an alarming rate. From 2004 to 2012, a tenth of the urban heritage trees have been lost, according to the Leisure and Culture Services Department in the city. Although age is a factor in the removal of the 52 old and valuable trees, experts say the government’s poor maintenance of the trees is what caused the trees to need to be removed.
Lack of coordination among departments is seen as a weakness in the care of the trees. As an example, different departments care for trees located in public parks and trees located along highways. To address the need to work together, a tree-management office was set up to issue guidelines, organize training, and improve risk assessment, but because this office’s head was given the most junior rank, it is difficult to advise senior officials.
Jim Chi-yung is an expert in the tree-management office, but he is disappointed in the results of the new system. The office felt it needed to identify risky trees and so set up training for staff and workers. “But the brief training sessions given to staff and workers won’t turn them into tree scientists,” he said. “What we need are true specialists, not a large number of insufficiently trained ‘assessors.’”
Town Planning Board member Patrick Lau Hing-tat, chair of the Hong Kong Trees Conservation Association and a landscape architect, said the city needs a comprehensive tree plan. The association is now offering accreditation to tree managers, who would hopefully be hire to supervise construction and roadwork, which is a leading cause in tree damage in the city.
The city is considering a study on introducing a bill for trees, which would potentially address the need for new tree protection laws.