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S’pore retiree ordered to clear decade-old secret garden in Choa Chu Kang forest

The secret garden is on state land

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Singapore – The owner of a garden the size of a three-room flat located in Choa Chu Kang was ordered to clear the area by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA).

A 75-year-old retiree who wished to be known as Mr Goh was required by SLA to clear his secret garden, which has served as his hideaway for the past ten years, reported The New Paper (TNP) on Friday (Mar 26).

A hiker had stumbled upon the area and alerted SLA. After an inspection on Mar 19, Mr Goh was told to clear the site and vacate it by Apr 9.

“We have placed an advisory at the site requiring all items to be removed by Apr 9. Such cultivation constitutes a trespass offence under the State Lands Encroachment Act,” said an SLA representative to TNP.

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“I visit the garden almost every day, especially in the morning after I take my grandson to school. My wife joins me on the weekends. It is a quick bike ride, and I am there in 30 minutes,” shared Mr Goh, who was an avid gardener.

The report noted it was his retirement dream to set up a small space for gardening. Mr Goh’s secret garden is located about five kilometres from his flat in Choa Chu Kang and approximately two-and-a-half kilometres from the main road.

“I have no place to do gardening at home, so I built a small garden and a makeshift shelter years ago. I have grown bananas, mangoes, papayas and even some herbs,” said Mr Goh to TNP.

“I would rather have this hobby than sit in a coffee shop all day doing nothing.”

Mr Goh’s daughter, who runs a home-based business, understands the basis for SLA’s order to vacate the area. “After all, he is using state land,” she said.

“But I also feel sad because he told me this is the retirement life he has always wanted, and he doesn’t know what to do after this. It breaks my heart to see him upset.”

She revealed that Mr Goh had applied for an allotment garden plot under the National Parks Board’s Allotment (NParks) Gardening Scheme in 2020 but was waitlisted.

“I am sad, but I have no choice. I will try to ask (SLA) for an extension because I just planted seeds for new herbs and want them to grow before I leave the place,” added Mr Goh.

In response to the news, a member of the public, Jimmy Tan, took to Facebook to note that he had submitted feedback to the relevant authorities through the One Service app.

“Hindering the retiree from his gardening hobby goes against our advocacy for active ageing,” said Mr Tan. “In traditional societies, the elders are respected for their wisdom and experience. SLA or NParks should hire him to teach our young generation how to cultivate the land for self-sufficiency to ensure food security.”

Photo: FB screengrab/Jimmy Tan

Others noted that the relevant authorities should be “more compassionate” about Mr Goh’s situation and should offer him a suitable place where he could continue his passion for gardening./TISG

Read related: Mother surprised to see photo of her family gardening on Ang Mo Kio TC advisory on illegal planting

Mother surprised to see photo of her family gardening on Ang Mo Kio TC advisory on illegal planting

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