New Zealand likes to flaunt itself as “clean and green”. And up until recently, I believed it was. Sure, it could be better, I would think, but at least it is 80% of the way there…

A view of Singapore showing nature and city in harmony

A common sight of Singapore – skyscrapers and trees.

That is until I saw a real clean and green country.
Singapore, for all its flaws, is probably the cleanest and greenest city on earth. And it got there by making it a priority, rather than by just saying and hoping it’s so. Even now, it’s pushing to become a city in a garden, rather than a garden city.

Trees, shrubs and all manner of flowers line every street, green areas are scattered through the city, skyscrapers have gardens falling out of just about every balcony and everywhere you look is a mixture of glass, steel and greenery. Technology meets nature here, and manages to coexist in harmony. Compare that to Auckland, for example. You have a few parks, but Queen Street is just about devoid of trees, or any greenery. Wellington’s CBD is the same.

The only reason New Zealand is able to say it’s clean and green, is all due to the fact that there are too few people and too many mountains. A lack of people, and not any effort, has ensured the clean and green image still exists.

New Zealand could prioritize being clean and green, and could learn so much from Singapore on how to get there. It could realize that more nature in cities helps with mental health, reduces stress, and makes a happier, healthier nation. It could make it a priority. But it doesn’t and I wish I knew why.

With the recent “wellness” budget, the general population could have gotten a massive push towards a real clean and green country. Instead, all we got is more of the same. And that’s a pity.


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