Sunday, March 30, 2008

ISA HK/China --- HK Tree News (Wong Tai Sin Tree Failure)


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Dear Station Members,

The recent Wong Tai Sin Tree Failure has been causing havoc in the media as per attached & on the internet. This Station really felt sorry for the Govt Depts handling it & could only wish the media can be placed in the same shoes sometimes to enjoy the criticism.

From verbal reports of Station Members who have visited the site, the problem appeared to be Erythrina Gall Wasps which had weakened the tree to the failure point. Then wind & rain catalysed the failure like everywhere else for tree failure in the world. What were seen as decay & pest attack appeared to be secondary to the primary initiation.

If the case would go to Court with the tree owner sued for Negligence by the victim, the plaintiff lawyer with the help of an experienced Arborist could possibly point out many accounts of lack of care in the maintenance of this tree. The chance of winning a hefty damages may be promising.

Besides monetary compensation, what would happen if this Chinese visitor went home & told his folks that the trees in HK are killers & he nearly kicked the bucket for it? Would our brothers & sisters up north with their thirsting media not enlarge the event to out of proportion for one reason or another? Yet in HK we are supposed to have an advanced landscape.

Possibly this Erythrina was selected for ' flowering' during the design & at that time, maybe we did not understand enough about trees to be careful. Since now that we have so many trees selected for ' flowering' without much consideration for Structure & Wind Stability, we may have some worries indeed to tend our trees.

Famous Arboricultural sayings passed down from experts would include:

1. If a tree is not designed, installed, maintained, inspected & risk assessed properly, it is likely to become a liability rather than an asset.

2. Mature Trees can be Time Bombs if not attended properly.

3. In any Tree Selection, it is always Mother Nature makes the rules, not us.

Only if experienced & qualified Arborists would have regularly inspected & risk-assessed our many Mature Trees in our territory, & to produce Arborist Reports to ascertain recommendations & responsibilities, then event as such in Wong Tai Sin would possibly fall upon the liabilities of the Arborist, not that of the Govt Depts.

For future planning, tragedy like Wong Tai Sin may be proportionally reduced by getting Arborists involved in the design, installation, maintenance, inspection & risk assessment of trees in our urban landscape. This is what western countries including Singapore would do. They have City Arborists & Urban Foresters to look after their trees. Why should we not?

Our typhoon season is about to come & one rainy night has already seen major incident as such for our Mature Tree Failure. What would happen if we get another mini-typhoon like Prapiroon of 2006 to visit us later on? Are we still able to claim the subsequent tree failures, damages & disruption all ' Acts of God ' ?

Only if HK can put Arborists back on stage to look after our trees like western countries, then maybe our trees would become safer, better looking & perhaps even happier in our territory?

best regards,

Sammy Au
Station Manager

The ISA Mission - Through research, technology, and education, promote the professional practice of arboriculture and foster a greater public awareness of the benefits of trees. (http://www.isa-arbor.com/)