Thursday, May 22, 2008

ISA HK/China --- HK Tree News (Bonham Road Church Tree Failure and Mongkok Police Station Topping)

*** Our weekly Station Mail is for the information of Station Members only, but Station Mail has given up copyright & can be freely circulated. For administrative reasons, comments from outsiders are usually not entertained & may be circulated within our system locally & overseas. Please note Station Mail is sometimes given in Blog at , although images are usually not attached due to size. ***

Dear Station Members,

Attached are two sets of recent HK Tree News for your interesting reading:

1. Bonham Road Church Tree Failure

As can be seen from the newspaper cuttings attached, this massive Ficus failed without warning, crushing a passing HKCS minibus & injured two innocent passer-by on 21.5.08 afternoon. As property damage & injuries have incurred in this unfortunate incident, legal action will be likely from the victims, & from Govt since Govt Property is involved, against the tree owner which happened to be a Church.

The Station Manager was actually invited to carry out Tree Inspection for this tree & a few others in the premises nearby on 21.3.07 upon the request of a Station Member who was a member of this Church. Since it was a House of God, the Station Manager had waived the HK$6,000.00 inspection fee laid down by ISA HK/China Professional Fees Guidelines normally charged for a site visit of this kind. Pictures of the tree at that time are attached in this Station Mail for anybody's inspection.

During the examination on 21.3.07, the Station Manager had stated very clearly that this was a Hazard Tree & should be removed immediately to avoid possible failure. However, the Church appeared to await for advices from other ' Tree Experts' & apparently did not accept the comments of the Station Manager for over a year. Then the tree failed tragically on 21.5.08.

In arboriculture, we have a famous saying that ' Mother Nature makes the rules, not any of us.' This incident has proved this sentence, & very sadly on a House of God.

2. Mongkok Police Station Topping

No matter how the public would outcry against Topping which is the next malicious act to tree felling, it would always happen for one reason or another in our territory.

A mature Delonix was topped to beyond recognition in Mongkok Police Station recently, leaving a bare skeleton to stand to possibly decay in time to come. Tree of this age & growing in condition as such would have a hard tome to recover after serious topping. The only fate awaits may be a final removal to be replaced by another tree, if future tree failure is not desired.

It may be also true that no Arborist consultation has been sought before the topping & the contractor might have never been trained to prune a mature tree by any international standard. This would be like asking a meat butcher to operate on human to remove bodily organs. Would any human be same enough to do that? If not, then why on a mature tree? Do trees have no dignity in our society? Trees were Gods in our territory only less than a hundred years ago!

It is unlikely that any penalty would finally be imposed for an event as such, as seen in many other similar or even weighted events in the past (Leung King Estate, Wu Kai Sa YMCA, Nam Cheong Estate, former ETWB office building, etc.) in our territory. HK appears to have the heart to protect our mature trees but with limited strength. If the same thing would happen in Singapore, it may have been a very different story.

The imminent way to protect our mature trees against malpractice such as topping would be requiring an Arborist Report before approving any pruning on a mature tree over a certain size or age. This is the most simple administrative measure & practical way to protect our mature trees. The Arborist should first carry out a detailed Tree Inspection, preferably with Tree Climbing to inspect the tree canopy, & to produce an Arborist Report with legal liabilities to state the reason why a tree is to be pruned, where to prune & how much to prune with what pruning method, with justification. The pruning type should also be stated & site supervision should be provided. Photographic record before & after pruning should be filed for any future Court enquiry or investigation by this Station, should it ever be required, e.g. tree failure after pruning resulting in legal action.

If we want to protect our trees in our territory, Arborists must be involved, or Mother Nature will make the rules. Arborists are Tree Doctors & Tree Detectives. Let them make the judgment, take the responsibilities & also the liabilities.

Is HK ready to truly protect our trees with action rather than with words?

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. (


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