Expertise urged over tree policy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 April, 2009, 12:00am

A tree expert has hailed the government initiative announced yesterday to review tree conservation policy.

Jim Chi-yung, chair professor of geography at the University of Hong Kong, said a comprehensive, instead of short-term, policy should be adopted to avoid a repeat of a tree collapse at Stanley in August in which a 19-year-old student was killed.

'I really hope that some concrete measures will be introduced and not just lip service given,' Professor Jim said after learning that the chief secretary would take the lead to study the Coroner's Court's recommendations over tree conservation.

Professor Jim, who testified as a specialist witness at the inquest into the death of Kitty Chong Chung-yin, said the recommendations were cited from his testimony.

He said what mattered most was the nurturing of talent that could take up such challenges, and such talent took some time to grow.

Speaking during an RTHK programme, Leisure and Cultural Services Department director Thomas Chow Tat-ming said public safety was always the top priority and the department would seriously consider the jury's recommendations.

'On tree management, there are many new methods to help solve problems, and workers have to keep practising. We will also pay special attention to the jury's suggestion over risk assessment of trees. We will offer overseas training to workers and ask foreign experts to provide training to workers,' he said.

However, Professor Jim said: 'The department has been doing this kind of training for quite a while, but we can all see that it yields no fruit.'

Offering such short-term training was useless, he said, adding that Hong Kong had to have its own tree expert as trees growing in the city might not be found elsewhere.

Conservancy Association conservation manager So Kwok-yin, who is also a tree expert, said: 'It is good that senior government officials pay serious attention to the case. Yet we need to bear in mind that it alone cannot achieve anything. A lot of work has to be done.'

While believing that more training should be given on tree inspection, Mr So said workers' attitudes towards tree conservation should be improved.

The recommendations

1 To set up an independent department to be held responsible for risk assessment and to handle cases involving trees with a high risk of falling.

2 The administration should hire better-quality staff when recruiting, after government officers were found to have insufficient professional knowledge in the field.

3 Experts should be retained to review guidelines for check-ups and provide clearer and more scientific amendments to the guidelines.