Press Release

【Press Release】Friends of the Earth (HK) Comment on The Review of Roadside Tree Planting and Maintenance

[Press Release]

Friends of the Earth (HK) comments on
The Review of Roadside Tree Planting and Maintenance

(Hong Kong, 31 January 2023) A task force under the Development Bureau reported to the Legislative Council’s Panel on Development on the progress review of roadside tree planting and maintenance work. Friends of the Earth (HK) welcomes the 10 improvement measures proposed by the government in reducing the risk of tree collapse, which include expanding the scope of tree risk assessment, enhancing reporting of tree failure cases, increasing the auditing of tree risk assessment reports, and introducing suitability and sustainability assessment for roadside trees.

To enhance the effectiveness of tree management work, Friends of the Earth (HK) urges the government to also adopt the following recommendations.

1.Currently, the government employs an "integrated approach" for urban tree management, where different government departments are responsible for managing trees in facilities and land within their purview. Due to the differences in approach and operation, it takes time for the government to negotiate in the process of policy implementation and data collection, which inevitably leads to administrative constraints. The government can consider setting up a dedicated team or assigning a single department to take charge of tree management in order to ensure a more centralised, focused use of resources that boosts management efficiency in the long run.

2.The government proposes to expand the scope of "Tree Basis” risk assessment, which is expected to increase the number of trees to be inspected by 4.5 to 5 times. It also plans to incorporate more risk factors into the "Guidelines for Tree Risk Assessment and Management Arrangements" as a measure to improve tree risk assessment work. However, given the shortage of professionals with tree management qualifications, market is questionable as to whether the industry can handle the fivefold increase in the number of scheduled tree inspections. The government should therefore choose higher-risk streets to optimise use of resources, such as prioritising tree risk assessment for older districts.

3.Tree assessment data is beneficial to tree management in the long run. We are pleased to see the government actively taking steps to build a common digital platform, compiling tree maintenance work and risk assessment of various departments in a systematic manner. We hope that the authorities can make good use of the data and work closely with research institutes and researchers from higher education institutions to conduct data mining and analysis, so as to identify high-risk trees as early as possible and reduce the risk of tree collapse in the future.

4.The government plans to formulate new guidelines on planting space and design within the year to foster sustainable tree growth. However, such measures constitute only a part of overall tree management strategy. Soil quality too plays an equally important role. Presently in Hong Kong, a large majority of trees are planted with mountain soil, which is not conducive to tree growth due to poor hydrophobicity and air permeability. In this regard, the Environmental Protection Department has to work with the Development Bureau to recycle and convert yard waste into compost and wood mulch to enhance the soil’s permeability and nutrient supply. It is as well imperative to lay down clear guidelines for the industry to follow as a way to achieve both sustainable tree growth and waste reduction.

Within the 17 targets of The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, "Goal 15: Life on land” covers the sustainable management of forests, ending deforestation and restoring degraded forests, establishing the vital role of trees in protecting, maintaining and promoting the sustainable use of ecosystems. To make Hong Kong a sustainable and liveable city, the government should take the initiative to develop urban forestry, integrating nature into urban planning. Efforts should also be made to strengthen tree management in minimising the risk of tree collapse.

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