Misunderstanding over legislation's role in tree management

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 September, 2015, 4:19pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 September, 2015, 4:19pm

In the report "'Twisted logic will mean tree massacres'" (September 8), Professor Jim Chi-yung said the government used "twisted logic" in deferring enactment of a tree law. I do not agree.

Briefly, tree legislation imposing mandatory requirements on tree inspection and specifying the qualifications of the tree care personnel is not a silver bullet. Legislation can never force a property owner to keep a tree, and any belief that this could be achieved is evidently "twisted logic": a fallacy that everyone will impassively follow the legislation.

The government maintains an open mind to initiatives that will not only quantifiably serve the required purposes, but also recognise the need for a balanced step-change management to enable transformation.

The Tree Management Office has short-, medium- and long-term strategies to develop responsible tree-risk management across sectors, disciplines, industries and the diverse spectrum of our community. With regard to property owners, we recently issued for stakeholder feedback the Draft Handbook on Tree Management, which will form part of the Building Management Ordinance. Under the ordinance, property owners are obligated to correctly manage and maintain all assets within their lot boundary. The handbook specifically sets out what is expected with respect to tree management.

Complementing the handbook is a broader education and awareness programme to maximise the strategic value of our work.

The government recognises that no single effort will resolve tree safety and achieve a zero-risk scenario; rather, it will take a range of combined measures to deliver an integrated approach to responsible tree risk management.

Part of the broader strategy by the government also includes the ongoing efforts to quantify the capabilities and capacity of the landscape and arboricultural industry. This includes the recently tendered resource and competency survey. Its aim is to collect and analyse up-to-date information about the manpower and education situation of the industry and help the government develop a robust action plan that will contribute to the growth of the landscape and arboricultural professions.

The Tree Management Office has been in discussions with members of the expert panel on tree management, and this topic is a key workshop item in the upcoming 16th meeting of the panel. There will always be scope for improvement, and the government stands ready to lead by inspiration and motivation.

Deborah Kuh, head of greening, landscape and tree management section, Development Bureau