Government officials will meet leaders of Maryknoll Convent School next week in a last-ditch effort to find ways to save a landmark Norfolk Island pine the school says must be cut down to protect public safety. The intervention came after conflicting professional views from tree experts from the private sector, a green group and the government itself in the past eight months over the health of the leaning 70-year-old tree. The pine was due to be cut down on July 27 after no objection was raised by the government. But more than 1,000 ex-students of the school in Waterloo Road have joined an internet campaign to save what they have dubbed the 'ghost tree'. As the tree was on a private plot, the school still had the final say on the tree's fate. The 20-metre-tall tree is close to a classroom building in the primary section, which is next to Waterloo Road. It has had a slight lean for years but its growth has been unaffected. Principal Josephine Lo Tsang Git-ging said it was a 'painful decision' to kill a tree treasured by pupils and alumni, but public safety had to be given top priority. 'The Maryknoll sisters love the tree too but they love their students even more,' she said, adding that their worries were aggravated by the death of a young woman under a tree that fell in Stanley last year. An arborist hired by the school in December concluded that the tree was at risk of collapse after termites were found on the lower trunk and resin was found oozing from it, a sign it was in bad health. Sammy Au, who has a professional qualification from the International Society of Arboriculture, found there was not enough room for the tree to grow. 'Those who dispute the conclusion and ignore the risks should bear the responsibility if the tree does fall. Even part of it collapsing could still be devastating.' His conclusion contradicted the results of an earlier check in November by another arborist, Ken So Kwok-yin from the Conservancy Association, who reported there was little risk of the tree falling. He later re- inspected the tree and reconfirmed that it was structurally safe. 'There is no need to remove the tree now, as there is no immediate danger. What is needed is to track the tree's health regularly,' he said. Last night, the Development Bureau added weight to voices for protection of the tree after a Leisure and Cultural Services Department team inspected in on Tuesday and concluded it was 'healthy and stable'. Officers from the Architectural Services Department and Antiquities and Monuments Office will meet school officials next Tuesday to discuss options for preserving the tree. University of Hong Kong tree expert Jim Chi-yung said the tree had tilted naturally towards sunshine and the resin on its bark showed its infection-fighting system was working.