Thursday, 09 June 2022 08:51

Heatwaves are literally killing the people of Western Sydney Featured

Heatwaves are literally killing the people of Western Sydney Heatwaves are literally killing the people of Western Sydney

Heatwaves are literally killing the people of Western Sydney
The peak body representing councils in Greater Western Sydney has called for the NSW Government to step up on heatwave emergency planning this Red Cross ‘Heat Action Day’ (14 June).

Heatwaves kill more Australians than bushfires, floods and storms combined. But governments are not planning for heatwave emergencies.

During severe heatwaves, people in Greater Sydney have experienced as much as a 13% increase in mortality (excess deaths), according to research.

“People in Sydney’s Western Suburbs are dying because authorities don’t take heatwaves as seriously as other natural hazards,” said Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) President, Councillor Barry Calvert.

“The current approach to heatwave planning is inadequate for our changing climate conditions; particularly in Western Sydney where temperatures have reached a life-threatening 50-degrees,” he said.

Councillor Calvert is calling for an urgent review of heatwave planning with the release of WSROC’s ‘Heat Smart Resilience Framework’ that outlines 25 recommendations for building resilience to extreme heat.

“We need to act now – before summer arrives. WSROC has been consulting with councils, state and federal agencies, industry, and the community sector to look at how Western Sydney – indeed Sydney more broadly – is managing extreme heat risk,” said Councillor Calvert.

“Disappointingly, we found that planning for heatwaves is not on par with fire, floods and storms.

“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.

“Heatwaves 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, too, through infrastructure breakdown, produce spoilage, reduced worker productivity and increased absenteeism,” said Councillor Calvert.

“It is estimated that heat stress costs the Australian economy $6.9 billion annually.

“At the household level, heat is making people sick, it is hitting hip pockets, and it’s destroying quality of life.

“We have been lucky that last two summers have been relatively cool, however we need only look to Western Australia to see what is in store for us.

“It’s inevitable, though, we will have more killer 50-degree heat waves,” said Councillor 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 Councillor Calvert.

To build resilience to heatwaves we must:

  • Measure heat impacts: “Understanding the scale and nature of heatwaves is critical to ensure we can address them appropriately.”
  • Reduce urban heat via the planning system: “While we can’t prevent heatwaves, we can reduce their severity by reducing emissions and lessen urban ‘heat islands’ by using our state planning system. Urban design must go beyond urban greening to include measures such as building 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. Failing to take action is leaving the community – and particularly the communities of Western Sydney – at risk,” said Councillor 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.

For more about the WSROC Heat Smart Resilience Framework, go to WSROC’s website at

Last modified on Friday, 10 June 2022 09:59

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