Western Sydney is hot and is set to get hotter as green fields make way for new housing developments; exacerbating what scientists call the urban heat island effect.

Turn Down the Heat Strategy cover 

Extreme heat causes major liveability and resilience problems with critical impacts for human health, infrastructure, emergency services and the natural environment.

 

Turn Down the Heat is a WSROC-led initiative that takes a collaborative, multi-sector approach to tackling urban heat in Western Sydney.

 

The initiative is guided by the Turn Down the Heat Strategy (launched in December 2018). Developed with the input of 55 different organisations, the Strategy lays out a five-year plan for a cooler, more liveable and resilient future.

 

The Strategy aims to:


1. Identify and leverage existing best practice to develop a program of effective actions at the household, precinct and regional levels;


2. Acknowledge the limitations of the current policy framework with regard to urban heat to galvanise action across diverse stakeholders; and


3. Propose a series of priority actions for development with a broader stakeholder group.

Turn Down the Heat Summary cover

 

The Strategy’s implementation will be guided by a steering committee made up of representatives from: WSROC, Western Sydney University, the Greater Sydney Commission, Resilient Sydney, NSW Health, Office of Environment and Heritage, and NSW Government Architect’s Office.

 

The development of the Turn Down the Heat Strategy has been a collaborative effort between many stakeholders who recognise that responding to the challenges of extreme heat and heatwaves are shared responsibilities. As such, we hope you see a role for yourself and your organisation in the ongoing work to reduce the impacts of urban heat in Western Sydney.

 

 

How can you become involved?

 

HELP US MAKE HEAT A PREMIER’S PRIORITY 

Assist us in our advocacy to make urban heat prevention and mitigation a NSW Premier’s Priority.

 

SUPPORT THE STRATEGY 

Advocate to make urban heat a priority issue and endorse this Turn Down the Heat Strategy by using it as a framework to guide and promote actions within your organisation.

Contribute to discussions, workshops and projects that will naturally evolve from the implementation of the strategy commencing in Dec 2018.

 

INITIATIVES WITHIN YOUR ORGANISTION 

Identify what your organisation is already doing. Is urban heat reflected in your policy or guidelines for:
o Planning and development?
o Green space management?
o Community education?
o Emergency response planning?
o Infrastructure and asset resilience?

 

SHARE KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERTISE

Assist us by sharing information about urban heat initiatives including research, projects or funding opportunities with the Turn Down the Heat community. To do so, please contact the WSROC Office on 02 9671 4333 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

To stay up to date on the Turn Down the Heat Strategy, please register your details by clicking the subscribe button below or contact the WSROC Office on 02 9671 4333.

 
 
Subscribe here button

 

Further information:

What is urban heat?

Urban heat island effect is a scientific term that describes the tendency of cities to be much hotter than surrounding rural areas.

As a city develops trees and vegetation make way for roads, roofs and footpaths. These hard, man-made surfaces are very good at absorbing and holding on to heat, raising the temperature in our towns.

Human activity such as traffic, industry and electricity usage add to the heat.
The temperature difference between built up and rural areas is even more pronounced at night because urban surfaces continue to hold on to heat from the previous day; re-radiating back into the environment.

In Sydney, morning summer surface temperatures in treeless urban areas are on average 12.8°C higher than vegetated non-urban areas (NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), 2015).

Development planned for Sydney to accommodate growing populations, jobs and housing have the potential to lead to further increases in urban temperatures.

Why is urban heat a problem?

Western Sydney’s rising temperatures have an adverse effect on the region’s public health, air quality and energy use, as well as increasing the frequency and intensity of ground level ozone and smog, putting children and the elderly at risk.

Extreme heat is the number one natural killer in Australia - Heatwaves have killed more Australians than all other natural hazards combined.

For more information visit the Climate Council website.

Why is urban heat an issue for Western Sydney?

The urban heat island effect is especially striking in Western Sydney. Its unique geography and lack of sea-breeze means that the region experiences more days over 35ᵒC than the eastern Sydney suburbs.

The greatest increase in the near future is projected for Western Sydney, with an additional five–10 hot days by 2030.

NSW OEH predicts that the converting of areas in the north-west and south-west of Sydney from forest and grasslands to new urban development may double the projected temperature increases from climate change in the near future.

What can be done about it?

Urban heat is a complex issue which reaches every level of government, every industry, and every part of our community.

We must all work together to prevent increases in urban heat in the long term, and ensure that our communities are ready to cope with extreme heat events in the short term.

Some examples of short and long term measures include:


Long term:

  • Increase urban green cover (plants and trees) is one of the most effective and natural ways to tackle extreme heat effects. Increasing natural shade will cool the suburbs and generate breezes, with positive flow-on effects for internal environments.
  • Emplace heat-safe planning measures for new developments.
  • Protect urban green space.
  • Improve the reliability and affordability of energy with priority for vulnerable communties - very young, elderly, ill and low income.
  • Heat-proof our city's infrastructure including energy, transport and roads.

Short term:
  • Educate the community about the health impacts of heat including how to stay cool, and look after family, friends, neighbours and pets on hot days.
  • Ensuring our emergency services and health system are resourced to cope with increased incidents on extreme heat days.
  • Promoting heat refuges where people can go to gain respite - such as shopping centres, libraries and picture theatres.
  • Ensuring access to water in public places.

What is the role of government?

Urban heat is an issue that must be addressed by all levels of government, private industry and the community. The development of Western Sydney is not controlled by any one entity. State and federal governments, private developers, local councils and individuals will all play a part in shaping the future of Western Sydney.

Local councils are responsible for maintaining greenspaces, planting street trees and local development controls.

The NSW Government has a role to play developing strategic planning controls that mandate good design from the highest level.

While councils can implement strategies at the local level, both state and federal government need to come to the table if we are to see a regional approach to urban heat.

What can individuals do to reduce urban heat?

While urban heat is a large-scale issue, everyone can contribute to a cooler city and reduce their home energy bills in the process.

Below is a list of measures you can take in your own home:

  • Insulate your home, especially the roof.

  • Install block out curtains and blinds and use external awnings on west facing windows.

  • Plant trees for shade and replace hard surfaces with lawn or gardens.

  • Where possible, use light coloured building materials to reflect heat.

  • Turn fans on for cooling first and set air conditioners to 24-25˚C in summer - every extra degree of cooling uses around 10 per cent more energy.


Additional information can be found via the below links:

How can I stay safe on extreme heat days?

Drink plenty of water
  • Drink plenty of water even if you do not feel thirsty.
  • Avoid alcoholic, hot or sugary drinks including tea and coffee (they can make dehydration worse).

Keep cool
  • Wear light coloured, loose fitting clothes made from natural fibres like cotton.
  • Taking a cool shower or bath.
  • Put wet towels or cool packs on your arms or neck or put your feet in cool water.
  • Visit an air conditioned space such as shopping centre, library or cinema.
  • Minimise physical activity.

Check on others who may be vulnerable to heat, including pets
  • Encourage them to drink.
  • Help them to find the coolest room in the house or consider taking them to a cool place (e.g. shopping centre, library or cinema).
  • Take particular care to keep children cool and get them to drink lots as they won’t often do this by themselves.

Stay out of the sun
  • Plan your day around the heat – avoid being outdoors between 11am and 5pm.
  • If you must go outside, apply sunscreen, wear a hat.

Have a plan
  • Know who to call if you need help.
  • Follow your doctor’s advice if you have any medical conditions.
  • If you feel unwell, seek medical advice from your doctor or nearest hospital.
  • Know where to find your emergency kit in case of a power failure.

Keep your food safe
  • Make sure food that needs refrigeration is properly stored (the temperature in the fridge should be between 0°C and 5°C).
  • Defrost foods in the fridge, not on the kitchen bench. 

For more information visit NSW Health's Beat The Heat web page.

Further information

Fort further information on projects and research currently underway in Western Sydney please visit the Turn Down the Heat Resources page.