A luxury hotel and shopping site in Hong Kong was called upon by the government to exhaust all possible means to save a century-old tree on its land, which was knocked over as Typhoon Mangkhut swept through the city.
But the Lands Department said the owner, a subsidiary of developer CK Asset Holdings, had earlier told officials it might have to remove the giant banyan, to ensure public safety.
The tree, at the Heritage 1881 site in Tsim Sha Tsui, had stood at the former marine police headquarters for more than 100 years. It was just one of nearly 15,000 trees which were felled or seriously damaged as the typhoon battered the city on Sunday.
The department went to inspect the tree on Monday and found it uprooted. It contacted the developer and its contractors and learned they were evaluating the banyan’s condition, and trying to save it.
It said on Thursday night that CK Asset Holdings said on the Monday it might remove the tree if necessary, to ensure public safety.
“The department has appealed to the developer and its commissioned professionals that they should exhaust all means to rescue the tree,” the department spokesman said.
The land lease, according to the department, contains a clause which forbids the owner to remove or disturb the trees at the site without government approval. According to a department practice note, trees can be removed for public safety, but the owner must submit a report about it within 21 days.
The department said that if the developer does need to move the tree, it will insist on a new tree in its stead, if feasible.
On Wednesday, workers were seen watering the tree’s roots, which were wrapped in cloth, near the hotel and boutique mall site on Salisbury Road. At the time it was understood that the tree contractor, an international consultancy firm, was thinking of ways to save the banyan.
The roots had been exposed to the sun, which sparked a call from veteran arborist Jim Chi-yung to immediately try to save the banyan by keeping its roots moist. Jim said the root plate was still intact.
The tree was originally on a hill near the former headquarters and was replanted in a cylindrical preservation structure when the site was redeveloped. Local conservationists said that caused great deterioration of its health due to lack of nutrients and loss of its roots.
The century-old tree is not registered as an Old and Valuable Tree, as listed by the government, which manages such trees.