For years, trees are highly valued by the people of Hong Kong who love and care about them. The Greening, Landscape and Tree Management Section of the Development Bureau (DEVB) has been working to foster a culture of love of plants and trees through diversified community participation activities, and by encouraging public participation in tree risk assessment and enhancing public education and community surveillance on the health of the trees, in order to ensure public safety. To allay the worries of the public and foster a better understanding of the Government's tree management policies, we have compiled a list of common concerns and responses as follows:
The Government attaches much importance to the performance of horticultural contractors, and diligently monitors their work performance in accordance with the service contracts.
The Government states clearly all necessary work requirements for compliance in horticultural and tree management contracts. If the performance of a contractor cannot meet these service standards, departments concerned will, depending on the situation and according to the contract, take action against the contractor.
Meanwhile, the TMO has already issued guidelines on proper pruning practices and irregularities that should be avoided (available here).
If the tree concerned is located on leased land with tree preservation clause(s), removal (inclusive of tree transplanting and/or tree felling) of such tree is controlled by the relevant lease clauses.
Prior to any tree removal, the lot owner or his/her representative shall submit a tree removal application to the respective District Lands Office of the Lands Department for approval. The application shall include tree information, reasons of tree removal and compensatory planting proposals. No tree removal is allowed until written approval is obtained from the Lands Department.
For details and enquiries regarding tree removal applications, please refer to Lands Administration Office"s Practice Note Issue No. 2/2020 or contact the respective District Lands Office of the Lands Department.
Due care must be taken when using broken branches or tree trunks as mulch or compost. As these broken branches and tree trunks may be infected with diseases, using them as mulch may spread the diseases to other plants.
As a typhoon hits Hong Kong, a huge number of branches or trees may be damaged in a short time. The departments concerned will first clear or remove the trees that may endanger our lives or property. Then they will clear the trees that block the traffic in order to open up major highways and carriageways at the earliest instance to minimise the impacts on the public. Therefore, it is not practical to require the departments to inspect a huge quantity of fallen trees and broken branches to identify pest and disease in a short period of time right after the typhoon.
However, for the routine vegetation maintenance work including grass cutting, pruning in which disease parts are not involved, departments are encouraged to reuse and recycle yard waste.
Within the country park areas, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department will turn plant waste into country park facilities, or stack them up at suitable locations to create suitable habitats for wildlife, and allow natural decomposition to occur.
As to the handling of plant waste, the departments concerned are studying how to make effective use of the compost or organic mulch as fertilisers in order to recycle plant waste. The DEVB will support the Environment Bureau"s work on the treatment of plant waste. The DEVB has also worked in conjunction with the tree management departments to launch a pilot programme with requirements to enhancing sustainability, such as the use of local compost and recycling felled trees, in a number of horticultural maintenance works. The Guidelines on Yard Waste Reduction and Treatment can be available here.
To enhance the knowledge of frontline and management staff on the control of the pests and diseases of plants and trees, the GLTMS has organised a number of courses on their control, including the control of BRRD.
In addition, the GLTMS issued the Manual on the Management of Brown Root Rot Disease (the Manual) in 2019 to provide the proper removal procedures of and follow-up requirements for BRRD infected tree (available here). The steps are clearly illustrated for better understanding by operating personnel. A short video and a sample method statement on the same are also available here. The GLTMS has also commissioned researchers and consultants from local universities to conduct a number of studies on topics that include genetic diversity and population structure of Phellinus noxius in Hong Kong. The findings, which ascertained the prevailing control and management strategy, have been shared among the tree management departments and members of the industry.
Identification of BRRD infected trees can be carried out through field diagnosis or laboratory diagnosis or the combination of the two. Typical symptoms of BRRD infection that could be identified by visual assessment of the tree crown(such as sparse foliage density, abnormal foliage size and colour, dieback twigs) and the entire lower trunk, root collar and individual roots (such as fruiting bodies, mycelial crust and nets, soil aggregates). A pictorial guide for identification for infected trees is available here.
In certain situations or tree species where the symptoms and signs of BRRD infection may not be obvious and field diagnosis will not be effective enough to confirm the infection, laboratory diagnosis involving fungal isolation and molecular diagnosis will be utilised to confirm the species of the fungi in the sample.
The Tree Management Practice Note No. 4 entitled "Management of Brown Root Rot Disease Infected Tree" was promulgated in 2020 to further promote the knowledge on BRRD to the general public and the industry, which is available here.
Regardless of whether the lease contains any clause requiring the owner of a private lot to properly maintain the trees within his/her lot, it is the responsibility of the owner to properly manage his/her property including the trees planted on the lot. Private lot owners may be held liable for any casualty or property loss arising from their failure to properly maintain the trees within their properties.In addition, if the lease contains clauses requiring the owner to properly maintain the trees and the owner fails to comply with the lease conditions, Lands D will, upon detection, take lease enforcement action in the capacity of the grantor of a government lease. Such action includes issuing warning letters to the owner concerned.
The DEVB has been proactively organising seminars and field demonstrations for property management personnel to enhance their knowledge of tree risk assessment and proper tree care. To assist more private property owners to properly manage trees, the GLTMS speaks on the "Handbook on Tree Management" and the importance of proper tree care in the building management workshops organised by the Home Affairs Department for private property owners from time to time, and answers property owners' questions on tree management.
Every year before the wet season, the DEVB will organise "Public Talks on Tree Care before Wet Season" for property management personnel and the public, in which the contents include common tree problems, tree inspection and general tree care, etc. The key objective is to remind property owners the need to arrange qualified arborists to conduct tree risk assessment for the trees within their premises and implement necessary mitigation measures, such as pruning, removal of dead branches or removal of trees at risk, to protect the residents' and public safety.To further enhance the awareness of private property management personnel on proper tree care, the DEVB has organised tree management workshops specifically for property management personnel since 2019.