Thursday, 07 April 2022 14:20

50-degree cities require heatwave disaster planning Featured

Aerial view of Western Sydney suburb Aerial view of Western Sydney suburb WSROC

Media release, 7 April 2022

The Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) has called for an urgent review of heatwave planning with the release of its Heat Smart Resilience Framework that outlines 25 recommendations for building resilience to extreme heat.

WSROC President, Clr Barry Calvert, said “Heatwaves kill more Australians than bushfire, flood and storm combined, yet as a society we don’t take heatwaves as seriously as other natural hazards.

“Over the last two years WSROC has been consulting with councils, state and federal agencies, industry, and the community sector to look at how Western Sydney – and Sydney more broadly – is managing extreme heat.

“We found that planning for heatwave is not on par with fire, floods and storms,” said Clr Calvert.

“Best-practice disaster planning generally looks at prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. For heatwave we only share heatwave warnings and encourage access to air-conditioning.

“This approach will simply not cut it under future climate conditions; particularly in Western Sydney where temperatures have already reached a life-threatening 50-degrees[1],” he said.

“Heatwaves are not visually dramatic, however they have the capacity to disable essential infrastructure across our city. That includes disruptions to energy and transport networks, telecommunications infrastructure and even mains water in severe cases.

“Heat impacts the economy, through infrastructure breakdown, produce spoilage, reduced worker productivity and increased absenteeism. At the household level, heat is making people sick, it is hitting hip pockets, and it’s destroying quality of life,” said Clr Calvert.

“The last two summers have been relatively cool, however we need only look to Western Australia to see what is in store for future years. It’s inevitable,” said Clr Calvert.

“In a future with more frequent, longer, and severe heatwaves, it is critical we have the governance and processes in place support community safety and ensure our city can function.

“WSROC’s Heat Smart Resilience Framework outlines key actions needed to bring heatwave management up to standard with a best-practice resilience approach including actions to prevent, prepare, respond and recover,” said Clr Calvert.

To build resilience to heatwaves we must:

  • Measure heat impacts: As identified by the NSW Treasury[2] the impacts of heat are known to be significant but are not well measured. Understanding the scale and nature of the issue is critical to ensure we can address it appropriately.
  • Reduce urban heat via the planning system: While we can’t prevent heatwaves, we can reduce their severity by reducing emissions and mitigating urban heat islands via our state planning system.[3] Urban design must go beyond urban greening to include measures such as orientation, cool materials, water, and airflow.
  • Build homes and infrastructure to function in a hotter climate: We can prevent heat related deaths. Ensuring new housing is designed for future climates and can maintain survivable temperatures without air-conditioning would be a great first step. It is also important to improve the heat-resilience of existing housing stock and critical infrastructure.
  • Heatwave planning and preparedness campaigns: Many of us are unprepared for heatwaves. We need annual campaigns to ensure ensuring local organisations and communities have the knowledge and tools to prepare for extreme heat events and adapt (their business operations and homes) to a hotter climate.
  • Practical assistance for at-risk communities: Heat in Western Sydney can reach life-threatening levels in summer. We need to support the community by providing free heat refuges, community transport, check-ins for vulnerable individuals, and energy rebates for those most at-risk.

“Heat has been identified as one of the biggest risks for Sydney time and time again[4]. Failing to take action is leaving the community – and particularly the communities of Western Sydney – at risk,” said Clr Calvert.

“WSROC is encouraged by the support from the NSW Government on this issue and looks forward to working with federal, state and local partners to drive improvements to the way we manage heat risk,” he said.



Media contact: Kelly Gee, 02 9671 4333, 0425 871 868 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  


Download the Heat Smart Resilience Framework


[1] Pfautsch, S., Wujeska-Klause, A., & Rouillard, S. (2020). Benchmarking Summer Heat Across Penrith, New South Wales.

[2] NSW Treasury. (2021). An indicative assessment of four key areas of climate risk for the 2021 NSW Intergenerational Report.

[3] WSROCs Urban Heat Planning Toolkit outlines how this can be achieved.

[4] Greater Sydney Commission A Metropolis of Three Cities (2018), Resilient Sydney Strategy (2018), WSROC Turn Down the Heat Strategy (2018).


Last modified on Thursday, 07 April 2022 14:45

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