Dr Digby White, CEO of World Urban Parks

dr digby white, ceo of world urban parksDr Digby Whyte’s career has involved leadership and professional roles spanning international, national, state, regional and city parks and recreation organisations based in Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada and Iceland; and governance roles with international, national, and local non-pro t park and recreation organisations.

Currently he is the CEO of World Urban Parks and in recent years was the Director of Park Operations, with responsibility for 4.7 million hectares of national parks and reserves, for the Parks and Wildlife Service of the Northern Territory Government in Australia and the Group Manager of Manukau City Parks a city serving 365,000 citizens in New Zealand. Dr Whyte has served on the boards of Parks Forum and the New Zealand Recreation Association. He holds Doctoral and Directors degrees in Recreation and Park Administration from Indiana University, and a Master of Public Policy from Massey University.

Tell us briefly about your current role?

The World Urban Parks CEO provides some of the public face of the organisation as well as leadership and support to the board, membership and partners.

What made you so interested in urban parks and spaces?

To do something about people’s quality of life. I like the idea of cities designed with their natural environment, particularly for their contribution to livability and access to nature. Most of my experience and education has been in New Zealand, Australia and USA, but over the last four years, wonderfully international!

MOU signing off

In Photo: MOU signing off World Urban Parks WUP and Parks and Leisure Australia PLA

Which is your favourite green space or park in the world?

There are too many, but I was bought up in a house inside a 10,000 hectare regional park on the edge of Auckland City in New Zealand – a park with mountain ranges, wild surf on black iron sand beaches and thick green bush.

What does World Urban Parks strive to achieve?

To be a united voice for the parks, open space and recreation sector and related partners. To champion the health, livability and sustainability benefits of city open space and to share knowledge and best practice.

Could you share some strategies used by World Urban Parks to encourage the use of green spaces?

Side Events at the UN Habitat III, international congresses with declarations, strengthening national associations in the industry, connecting open space providers and managers across the sector to solve common issues.

dr digby white, forum

In Photo: Team at European Commission Green Capital Awards

Why do you think parks and green spaces are undervalued?

Within a city environment space is utilized for housing, commerce, and transport. Depending on how advanced city planning is, these uses can compete. They can be seen as essential priorities but increasingly it is being realized that natural systems and cities integrated with open space make the city more liveable, resilient, healthy and economic.

In recent years, many developed cities have taken an active approach to creating green space. Do you think these efforts are sustainable?

A number of cities are starting to restore and reconnect the natural systems within their cities. Some of this is more advanced planning, some in response to competition (e.g. the European Commission Green Capital Awards), some in response to citizens, some in relation to climate change and etcetera. The future test will be how the city responds to ever increasing population. In Singapore green space is now being integrated into high-rise buildings. Green space systems have been recognized as contributing to city climate change resilience (including cooling effects, cleaner air) and they also support non-vehicular circulation systems (in conjunction with public transport like trams) that are safer and more enjoyable than congested road systems.

In your opinion, how do urban parks and open spaces contribute to improving social interaction in cities?

Public parks are social levelers, whether sitting on the beach or playing soccer, it does not matter who is who. Good park design and use management or facilitation caters for social situations, such as events, supporting club use, playgrounds with social places for parents, outdoor aerobics or dance, cafes, etcetera.

What does your ideal urban park look like?

There is no such thing, but it should respond to the local culture and natural environment. They may be in broad categories with an emphasis on natural systems, such as coastline and streams; sport or community; play or bikeways; or outstanding geography or cultural heritage. In general, the integrity of natural and cultural resources, circulation and information systems, compatible uses, reduction of risks, and basic conveniences should feature.


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Mr Tai Lee Siang, Chairman WGBC

Interview with Mr Tai Lee Siang, Chairman, World Green Building Council:

Tai Lee Siang, Chairman, World Green Building CouncilCities of Love Awards, the first of its kind, was conceived by Tai Lee Siang and Valeria Ang, who are also the co-authors of the book “Cities of Love”.

Green In Future had an opportunity to talk to Mr Tai on his views on the awards and its long term plans. Cities of Love Awards are looking for sustainable actions or initiatives in Singapore and Southeast Asia which have resulted in positive social, economic or environmental impacts.

Awards for sustainable issues are usually conferred on government or business leaders who have helped to implement large-scale transformations. Whilst important, they rarely show high levels of innovation, care and love for the communities around them. AWARD DETAILS >>

Tai Lee Sang and Valerie believe smaller enterprises or individuals who are making a deeper societal im- pact should share in the glory too. No project is too small, no step is too insignificant – if your actions have made a positive impact in some way, they should not be discounted!

Submit your entry and get recognised for your hard- work! Green In Future is honoured to be associated with the Cities of Love Awards as their media partner for COLA 2017 and will continue to render its support for all of their sustainable efforts. APPLY NOW >>


Tell us briefly about your journey to promote sustainable living?

Although I was trained as an architect in my early years and we were well taught about passive architecture, sustainability was not found in our vocabulary. By mid 2000s, the message of climate change gained momentum and I was increasingly made aware of the critical challenges. Passive architecture will not be enough to overturn the dire situation. There is a need to actively promote and educate people about sustainability. This is the background to why I started on this journey.

What was the inspiration to come up with Inception?

The word Inception means beginning or commencement. Valerie, my wife, and I had always wanted to start a company that focuses on creativity and sustainability. We believe that these two great forces could bring about solutions and transformations. We would like to produce creations such as fashion, publications and initiatives that demonstrate creativity and sustainability. This gave birth to Inception.

Tell us about Cities of Love Book and the transformation to Cities of Love Awards 2017?

cities of loveCities of Love is the first book written by Valerie and I in 2016. It is a book about encouraging ground up action and rethinking about the notion of living in cities. The central idea is that people must play an active role to enhancing our environment. The cumulation of individual efforts can bring about avalanche changes when coupled with strong governmental leadership and industrial participation. In promoting this idea, we found that the concept of Cities of Love Awards gels well with the book and it may serve as catalyst to bring about such an action.

What made you to decide to do it in Singapore ?

Singapore is a natural first stop. given the nation’s focus on clean and green, it is an ideal ground for people’s involvement on social, economic and environmental fronts. With the strong support from public, private and people sectors, we hope that we can kick off with a good start.

How will this award stand out from other awards which are given to sustainable projects and people associated?

Most awards are given to peak performer or entries. Cities of Love award aims to recognise wider range of applicants. This will be achieved by applying a more lenient judging criteria to include entries that may be considered borderline by other awards. The idea is not to water down standards but to encourage new innovative ideas to flourish and develop further in the future.

In your Book you have mentioned about the 12 Ingredients for a sustainable and lovable city. Are the same ingredients applied for the judging criteria for the award?

The 12 ingredients will not be applied directly as judging criteria for the award. However, entries that match any of the 12 ingredients will aid in the process of judging.

How is the selection process?

All the entries will be forwarded to the jury panel for preliminary screening. Once screened, all award winners will be identified and entered into a second round. The second round is for the selection of highest level of recognition.

What is your long term vision ?

My long term vision is to see sustainability entrenched as a way of life. As a way of life, sustainability shall be a key consideration in day to day decisions such as the way we live, work and learn. This is my dream. This is a necessary reversal from today’s world where financial considerations always outweigh other considerations.

How is your current role helping in this award journey?

My current role has given me insights and connections to an emerging world of sustainability activists and champions. Many of them toil anonymously and tirelessly to change the world that they operate in. My wish is to use these contacts to help recognise many such champions.

Is this award a yearly one? What do you feel Singapore and the region can gain and learn from this award?

Yes, this is an annual award. Through this award, I hope that we can learn that sustainability is more than just a word. It embodies many good social, economic and environmental virtues and values. By adopting these good values, societies can learn to be self-sustaining instead of self-consuming.


We conduct frequent workshops to raise awareness and enlighten our community through various Green initiatives

Our Sustainability Green Workshops include “Greener Living Workshops”, “DIY Terrarium workshops”  with easy hand-on exercises and demonstrations for practicing sustainable living. Materials for workshops will be provided by us.

We hope our initiatives can help spread environmental awareness to adopt a Greener lifestyle and enjoy Nature.

Kids Green TerrariumDIY Terrarium JarsGreen Terrarium Jar

diy terrarium workshops

Ms Maria Boey, President IPRS

Maria Boey, President, IPRSInstitute of Parks and Recreation, SingaporeAn Architect, Landscape Architect, Town Planner and Urban Designer.
She has planned Tampines Town and Paris Ris Town. Tampines won the World Habitat Award in 1992 for Housing and Development Board, Singapore. She and her Architects designed most of the housing development in Neighbourhoods 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8 and 9 forming a network of Green Connectors within the town.

She is formally Hon. Sec.  for the Singapore Institute of Planners and held other Executive posts for a decade. She is President of the Institute of Parks and Recreation, Singapore and Second Vice-President of Singapore Institute of  Landscape Architects presently. She is a Rotarian and Soroptimist who donates generously to Lions Homes for the Elders, Lions Befrienders, Singapore Planned Parenthood Association and Henderson Senior Citizens Home and other charities. She is a Distinguished Toastmaster who helps people in communication.


Qn1: Tell us Briefly about your career as a Landscape Architect?

I really enjoyed my career as a landscape architect because it is such a wonderful thing to create landscaped spaces for the people to use. You can see plants grow in a short moment and encourages bio-diversity in attracting birds and butterflies to the selected plants. I have 26 years experience in planning, designing and implementing from concept to completion in public housing of Singapore HDB (Housing Development Board). I lead a team of architects in planning of housing precincts which is a breakthrough in the housing design as we provide a central space for social interaction of the residents with green linkages to surrounding neighborhoods.

As an Architect, I have designed thousands of flats, a few neighborhood centres, a mosque and some neighborhood parks. As head of HDB Landscape Studio, I set standards for landscape. We researched into different types of plants we should plant. For example, if you want fragrant plants there are lots of fragrant plants you can choose from. There is also the edible garden that we would like to plant especially fruit trees. Many new design concepts were introduced which I am part of like the recreating waterbodies in SungeiApiApi and Bukit Panjang Neighborhood Park, which is a storm water retention pond. I left HDB in 2003 to join Surbana International Consultants Pte. Ltd. where I continued as a landscape architect. We worked in team in landscape design and implementations. I was involved in the Institute of Parks and Recreation(IPRS)for many years and now I am the President since 2008.

Maria Boey, IPRS, PresidentThis has helped me to contribute to the community in terms of landscape. For example, I promoted community garden in our public housing. Community Gardens is a nationwide gardening movement known as Community in Bloom initiative by NParks, to provides a platform for people to bond with the wider community while drawing them closer to nature in our cityscape!

Qn2: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job as a landscape architect?

As a landscape architect the biggest reward is to see people enjoy themselves in the HDB Parks and Gardens that I designed individually or in a team. The latest project that I helped to implement was Eco-Park at Rumah Tinggi. This linear park is part of the KTM railway providing cargo access to Brickworks. Here, we use water retention tanks and swales for this ABC (Active, Beautiful and the Clean water) project, encouraged by Public Utility Board.

In Kallang Trivista Housing near the Kallang MRT station,we implemented what is best for the environment with fruit trees, edible plants and flowering plants for butterflies and birds. Here  we use the ABC concept of planting with rain gardensand swales which means that the rainwater will be collected underground, through the drain and  plants on top of the drain. It is very beautiful scheme by integrating the drains, canals and reservoirs with the surrounding environment in a holistic way

Qn3: Tell us briefly about one of your favourite project and why ?

Not many know about a dinosaur park in Woodlands. A decade back, this park was a very popular attraction located in Woodlands street 81. I was inspired by the Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England and bought a small model with Stonehenge footprint to create the park entrance. This park is called Fu Shan (Fortune Mountain) Garden. We used mostly natural stones to form the waterfall. Leaves from the existing trees were sculptured into green petals fallen into the waterfall as part of nature. At that time we didn’t have many proprietary playgrouno ds so by designing a set of dinosaurs I have to use my creativity how would the children use it. Mainly because there are different types of dinosaurs, we have a number of slides, sunken into the the sand pits. As there were much publicity about this park, many parents brought their children from all parts of Singapore to play in this park.

Qn4: What were the challenges arise and how did you manage that ?

The challenges arise basically when we have areas that we have to plant without enough sunshine as we need sunshine for six hours for a plant to grow effectively. And there will be areas with too much water so we have to think first about what types of plants we can plant. These days,  there are  roof gardens which are of intensive and extensive use. The extensive roof garden has no public access but planted with simple species which are durable and has little maintenance. The intensive roof gardens are furnished with  shelters, 3 generations play and exercises equipment. Due to its limited space, planting are limited to small trees and away from the housing units.

Qn5: What advice do you have for young landscape architects and designers?

I think  for any designer whether  it is graphic design,  architecture or landscape , a person must have a passion and love what they do. It becomes more an enjoyment when you combine  work and the passion for what you are doing. The ability to create great things for the people is what we should focus on to do. Care for the people and the environment. With lots of trees, animals like squirrels, Butterflies and birds will just appear. Birds can benefit from trees yielding berries. So let’s ensure we keep architecture and landscape related together for a better environment and ecology.

Qn6: What are the do’s and don’ts of Architectural Designing ?

Do everything that is right and don’t do anything that is wrong because in the process of landscaping we are actually learning as well. So there are things that we have to do right is like planting the right plant to the right environment. For example you don’t plant a water plant on the dry ground. You have to plant it in water. You must not work alone, work as a team . Work with the licensed contractors and the suppliers, that way new products keep coming out. So it’s good to know the industry as well. We must learn and improve ourselves further to make the world a better place.

Qn7: Say something you would like to share on sustainability and landscape design?

Sustainability is a very wide field . It extends from plants to building. As a president of IPRS, I promote edible planting and insist on growing your own plant. We have a book authored with Vegetarian Society, Singapore called At Home from Pot to Pot to encourage families to plant their own vegetable and eat them. This book is especially to encourage children to eat more fruits, herbs and vegetable in their own home.

Qn8: What are the points to be noted while designing parks for recreation ?

There are many types of parks in Singapore . For public housing, it was neighborhood parks and now known as “common green’ due to its smaller housing precincts. For the children, it is the proprietary playground and for the (NS) National Service, we have the exercise station and for the Elderly we have the exercise equipment. There is a jogging track which doubled up for brisk walking. We have shelters and seats for all. We should design according to the park’s size and what facilities the budget have proposed. Big parks like Singapore Botanic Garden which is an UNESCO site requires more conservation and protection.

Qn9: Tell us about your current role as the president of IPRS and your future plans and goals?

The Institute of Parks and Recreation Singapore (IPRS) is a professional body dedicated to the conservation and enhancement of the country’s parks and other recreational facilities. We are inspired by the beauty of natural surroundings in contrast with the modern backdrop of the city. As part of our core values, we spearhead several fundraising projects that have green initiatives. We work with people who have a similar vision as ours, one that involves a sustainable future through a lively environment.

We have organized cycling events and even workshops and we are organizing a conference in July. International Greenery, Recreation, Infrastructure Park Conference 2017 and World Urban Parks AsiaPacific Congress 17-20 July 2017. For the goals, we should have more members locally and internationally. We have plans to expand overseas and planning to have upcoming overseas conferences in future. Tentatively one in Japan next year.