Inquiry on Maryknoll tree felling sought

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 August, 2010, 12:00am

The Ombudsman has been urged to investigate whether government departments and a senior official were negligent in allowing the felling of an old pine tree at Maryknoll Convent School.

Civic Party legislator Tanya Chan lodged a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman yesterday, saying that the Antiquities and Monuments Office, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, in her capacity as the Antiquities Authority, did not do their best to protect trees growing in the school campus in Waterloo Road, Kowloon Tong, which was declared a monument in 2008.

The government said last month that it would not prosecute the school for failure to comply with the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance and government permits.

Trees on a monument site are not protected as part of the monument under the ordinance. But the site's owner is required to apply to the monuments office if the owner wants to remove or plant a tree, to avoid causing damage to historic structures on the site.

The government said that in December 2008 the school, without informing the monuments office in advance, removed 18 trees, saying there was a pest attack and the school needed to ensure safety.

And, despite the work permit requiring it to, the school did not submit details of drainage work that took place on the school campus in January this year, which later resulted in damage to more than half of the roots of the 70-year-old pine.

The tree was felled in February.

A spokeswoman for the Development Bureau said the government had made special efforts to preserve the tree in consultation with the school, and that good tree-management practices would be promoted through public education.