The Minister of Tourism, Ng Yen Yen, who is a very keen gardener, has decided to use tourism to drive the upgrading of parks and gardens in Malaysia. In August 2010 the Ministry appointed me as Consultant for Parks and Gardens. Since then I have been involved in many site visits and meetings.
My first task was a 'hot potato': to steer the redevelopment of the Water Mall at the Penang Botanic Gardens into a water garden. The grant money had been spend on poorly conceived structures, as a result of which public opinion had turned negative. The Ministry was stung and I had only six months to redevelop the area using the small amount of money left. I hope by June this year to have Victoria lilies and other water plants fully established, and to have a respectable water garden on show.
Next are public gardens in Malacca, Fraser's Hill, Cameron Highlands and Raub to be upgraded. I hear there still others in the pipeline.
I hope, during my tenure, to get botanists appointed to take charge of the botanic gardens. We now have public 'botanic gardens' in Penang, Malacca, and Kuala Lumpur that are only botanic in name. With no botanists in charge there are no programmes for research, conservation, interpretation or education.
I also want to establish apprentice training schemes for gardeners so as to upgrade gardening as a creative profession.