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Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong at the Opening of Rifle Range Nature Park on 12 November 2022

12 Nov 2022

My Parliamentary Colleagues Desmond Lee, Sim Ann, and Shawn Huang

CEO of NParks,

Distinguished guests

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning, and it is very good to join all of you today for this opening of Rifle Range Nature Park.

It has been some time since I had the chance to do an event like this out in nature. It used to be one of my favourite activities when I was in MND. Indeed, I had the chance to announce this plan for Rifle Range Park when I was at MND, so it is extra meaningful to be back here again for this opening. 

Green spaces like this are an integral part of our city. Places are open for all to enjoy and take respite from the hustle of our daily lives and they help to refresh and uplift our human spirit.  

We saw this vividly during the last three years of the pandemic, amidst the circuit breaker, the heightened alerts and travel restrictions, many Singaporeans and people in Singapore spent more time in our nature reserves and parks, as well as park connectors. From catching a breath of fresh air, to exercising, or simply quietly observing nature, record numbers of Singaporeans young and old used our parks and park connectors, and green spaces. Some discovered them for the first time. Others realised how precious and special they were, and how we should be cherishing these places much more.

So, it is really not an exaggeration to say that green spaces helped Singaporeans to get through those difficult times of the pandemic.

In many other countries, residents have the benefit of a vast, untouched countryside which they can retreat to. But we do not have that luxury here in Singapore where our land is scarce and limited, with so many competing demands. We need to build more homes, certainly more HDB flats which we are doing very quickly, to keep public housing affordable. We need to develop our commercial and industrial areas, to create more jobs and opportunities for our people. So how do we strike this balance? Despite all these competing demands, we have made sure not to compromise our green spaces. In fact, we have expanded our green spaces and green connectors, and we have protected our nature reserves – Singapore’s most ecologically diverse and important areas.

Rifle Range Nature Park illustrates our commitment to this. This place used to be a granite quarry, with a kampung on its fringe. Later, it hosted the Singapore Gun Club and its Rifle Range – which is how this area got its name. Today, we have enhanced this space and turned it into a nature park. NParks has replanted native rainforest trees, and turned the former granite quarry into a thriving freshwater habitat. And it stands as an example of how we can prioritise green spaces in Singapore and establish new ones wherever we can.

Something we should all note too is that this is our first new nature park since the start of the pandemic. So, I hope it stands as a symbol of better things to come in the years ahead. The work for this park was delayed by Covid-19, but now our plans have come to fruition. The park spans 66 hectares, it is a large nature park, with a wide diversity of plants and wildlife, be it civets, colugos, flying squirrels, and the critically-endangered Sunda Pangolins! And to help Singaporeans and residents explore all of this, NParks has created 7km of trails and boardwalks catering to people of all ages and abilities. Many of these trails retrace the paths that have been left by kampung villagers in the 50s. There are also trails for children, there are barrier-free routes for people with disabilities,  and there is viewing deck, nearly 10 storeys high, which gives a bird’s eye view of the area. So, I hope everyone will come explore Rifle Range Nature Park, and enjoy all it has to offer.

Let me also acknowledge our partners, who have made valuable contributions to make this nature park a reality.  As you explore the grounds later today, you will find many trees that were planted by the Friends of Bukit Timah, members of the nature community, as well as residents, grassroots leaders and students from this area. All of these efforts are tremendous and they were generously supported by HSBC Singapore, which helped sponsor the saplings that were planted here. I understand that from next year onwards, the WWF Singapore will be offering free monthly guided tours here too. A big thank you to everyone for your support. We could not have done it without you. Thank you very much.

With this opening, we now have eight nature parks lining our central nature reserves. They serve as a buffer to the rich biodiversity in our nature reserves’ inner habitats, and therefore provide a gentle transition from the nature reserves to our urban areas. When you take all of these together, the central nature reserves and the eight nature parks surrounding it, we have an area that spans more than 3,500 hectares, which is nearly 5% of the Singapore landmass.

And we are not yet done greening Singapore.

We are pressing ahead with our plans to further green our city, and make it a City in Nature.  

In the coming years, we have plans to develop another five more nature parks. We will continue to plant more trees across Singapore, to cool and beautify our urban environment.

And we will find more innovative ways to integrate nature into our city and bring Singaporeans closer to nature, so that every home, no matter where you stay in Singapore, can be within a 10-minute walk of a park. This is how we can build greener and better homes for everyone.

We need your support to make these plans a reality, because in the end, this tiny little island of Singapore belongs to all of us. This is our home, and it is up to us to shape the Singapore we want for our future. So, I encourage everyone to join us as partners on this journey forward. Let us work together to make Singapore, our city in nature, the best home for ourselves, our families and our loved ones, for today and for many more generations to come. Thank you very much.