In the meantime, the government entrusts some tree management responsibilities to private companies. For Tanya Chan, outsourcing is not necessarily a problem, “but it doesn’t mean that the government is not responsible for tree management.” Chan cites a case in which outsourced contractors carried out inappropriate pruning of trees in Victoria Park, a case she says highlights the importance of monitoring.
Ken So Kwok-yin the chief executive of the Conservancy Association and a licensed arborist believes the government must play a leading role in supervising tree works.” If there isn’t any necessity for people to prune to a proper standard, then why would I spend so much time to bring it up to standard,” says So. He adds that there have been many cases of improper pruning that have damaged the health of trees, yet there is no punishment for offenders.
So also points to urban planning as a root cause for Hong Kong’s tree problems. He says that with the growing population in Hong Kong, any space available is used for development. Greening is the last thing to be considered. It is only after people’s basic needs are satisfied, that we start to call for greening, but no space has been reserved for planting, according to So, and it is hard to find new land on which to plant.
Although So can see a lot of room for improvement when it comes to tree management in Hong Kong, he is not totally negative about the government’s work in this regard. He is a non-official member of the Expert Panel on Tree Management, which acts as a channel for the industry and experts to communicate and coordinate with the government. So says there are now policies in place to make as much land available for greening as possible and he feels the government does respect the panel. “It[ the panel] is not the rubber stamp most people describe,” he emphasises.
Lawrence Chau, the head of the Tree Management Office under the Development Bureau, also defends the government’s record.
He reaffirms the importance attached to the conservation of trees, pointing to the establishment of the Tree Management Office as an example of the progress the government has made on the issue. Chau says the fatal accident, where a 19-year-old student was killed when a tree collapsed in Stanley in 2008, was a wake-up call. The Tree Management Office was set up after the incident.
As for Tanya Chan pointing out the dead trees in Park Lane Shopper’s Boulevard as an example of poor tree management in Hong Kong, Chau says the trees existed before the establishment of Hong Kong in 1842. He thinks it is unfair for people to use the unhealthy growth of these trees to criticise the government’s tree management. Chau says he knows what the problems are and explains things have improved in recent urban planning projects.