The Greater Tainan Government’s Tree Protection Committee is set to increase its membership by 11, as well as budgeting NT$3.3 million (US$110,730) for the treatment of trees, the city government’s Agriculture Bureau chief Hsu Han-ching (許漢卿) said.
The official made the remarks in response to criticism last month from environmental protection groups, which accused the city government of not putting enough effort into protecting the city’s historic trees.
The group highlighted the case of a century-old Taiwanese banyan on a piece of land in the North Community Cultural Park of the city’s North District (北區), which was sold to building contractors.
The group said that although the tree was planted during the Qing Dynasty, it did not pass a conservation review by the committee, which did not give any reasons for its decision.
In response to complaints that city government officials held three seats on the former seven-member committee, Hsu said that the decisionmaking process would now be given greater importance, adding that he would step down as convener for the committee to avoid claims of government intervention.
Hsu said the committee would also increase its number of members to 18, an increase of 11.
However, Hsu said that as the committee had just undergone a personnel rotation and is understaffed, it may be difficult for the committee to care for all 204 historic trees in the city.
Several of the trees under the city’s jurisdiction have not yet been reviewed by the committee due to the amalgamation of the former Tainan county with Tainan city to form the Greater Tainan special municipality, he said.
“However, the committee is not excluding these trees from our care,” Hsu said, adding that it would continue to review the city’s trees and make nominations for future preservation.
According to Hsu, the committee has limited financial resources, with the local and central governments providing NT$800,000 and NT$700,000 respectively.
The funds are used to protect and nurture the ground around the trees, Hsu said, adding that the committee had allotted an additional NT$1.8 million to specifically treat trees for brown root rot.
Despite limited manpower and finances, Hsu said the committee does its best, adding that it hoped that civic organizations could help with the committee’s work.
Citing the Fu Tien Tree Healing & Conservation Foundation as an example, Hsu said the foundation had adopted flames trees (Delonix regia) in the city’s Tang Te-chang Park, as well as several Manila tamarind trees in Tainan Park.
The committee has also established a toll-free telephone number so that city residents can inform the city government about trees which could require conservation.
The city government also hopes to recruit volunteers to help maintain trees, Hsu said.