Heat is Australia’s deadliest natural hazard, and impacts 100% of the population of Greater Sydney every summer.


Heat impacts are particularly pronounced in Western Sydney, due to a combination of climate change, local geography, and rapid urbanisation – where greening makes way for new housing developments.


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


Urban Heat Impacts diagram - Urban heat has an impact on people, infrastructure the economy and environment. Heatwaves have killed more Australian than any other natural disaster. 13% increase in mortality has been seen during past heatwaves. Of all the extreme weather events, heatwaves place the greatest pressure on our city's infrastructure assets. Extreme heat causes dramatic reduction in the amenity of an environment from teh neighbourhood to the city level. Public spaces and other facilities can become unusable. Economic impacts of heat are also significant. Western Sydney households use 100% more energy for cooling than eastern Sydney households. The broader economic burden of heatwaves in Western Sydney is thought to be significant, however the exact cost remains unknown and challenging to quantify. It is estimated that an annual productivity loss of $6.9 billion can be attributed to heatwaves across Australia.

Figure 1. Diagram of key urban heat impacts: People, economy, environment and infrastructure


The impacts of heat are already being felt across Western Sydney. We urgently need to respond with strategies that minimise the impacts of intense shocks such as heatwaves and the ongoing stress of frequent hot and very hot weather.


It is critical that we improve our region’s resilience to urban and extreme heat. A resilience approach involves not only reducing urban heat, but also helping people adapt, and being prepared to respond in extreme events.


Turn Down the Heat Strategy cover

Turn Down the Heat Strategy and Action Plan (2018)

Turn Down the Heat is a WSROC-led initiative that takes a collaborative, multi-sector approach to building a cooler, more resilient future for Western Sydney.


The initiative is guided by the Turn Down the Heat Strategy and Action Plan (2018) which was co-designed by over 55 stakeholders who recognise that the response to extreme heat and heatwaves is a shared responsibility.


The strategy outlines five key areas for action:


    • Take action together
    • Design and plan to cool the built environment
    • Cool with green space and water
    • Build a community that is healthy and prepared
    • Innovative and responsive infrastructure


Current initiatives:

WSROC is currently delivering a range of grant-funded projects under the Turn Down the Heat Strategy:



◼ Urban Heat Planning Toolkit (2020 – 2021)

Developed to help local government strengthen their planning provisions to reduce the impacts of heat. The Toolkit outlines a clear evidence base to support a resilience approach to addressing heat and provides recommendations for other parts of the planning system (state and national) to be addressed.


◼ Cool Suburbs Tool (2020 – 2022)

A rating and assessment tool for building heat resilience in urban planning and development. Supported by an expert science panel who synthesised urban heat science in an easy-to-use platform. Tested with industry. The Tool is free to download and use.


◼ Heat Smart Western Sydney (2020 – 2021)

No matter how well we mitigate urban heat, Western Sydney will continue to experience life-threatening heatwave events. Heat Smart reviewed heatwave management across the city, and through extensive stakeholder engagement developed:

  • The Heat Smart Resilience Framework: Outlines 25 recommendations for improving Sydney’s heatwave emergency management.
  • Community resources: Pamphlets, videos and social media tiles to support communities and frontline staff with knowledge and tools to plan, prepare for and manage heat risks.


◼  Climate resilient street trees (2020 – 2022)

Planting street trees does not guarantee their survival to mature, healthy, cooling canopy. This project sets up a number of demonstration sites to test how species selection and passive irrigation influence successful outcomes. A selection of species with varied climate-risk and cooling benefits will be planted with and without access to passive irrigation. Tree performance will be monitored over time.


Future Proofing Residential Development (2022)

This project seeks to understand how current building design regulations will perform in future climates. The study reviews the performance of NSW BASIX-compliant homes and apartments under future climate scenarios in Greater Western Sydney.


Greater Sydney Heat Taskforce (2023-2024)

Despite the far-reaching impacts of heat, Sydney has no coordinated arrangements in place to measure, mitigate or manage heat impacts. This program seeks to address this gap, bringing together state, local, industry and community stakeholders towards a long-term vision where people living in Greater Sydney can survive and thrive in a warming climate and during extreme heat events.


In addition, many other initiatives from our partner organisations can be found on our Turn Down the Heat resources page.


How can you become involved?

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.



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.



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



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.

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WSROC has partnered with Dr Sebastian Pfautsch from Western Sydney University to develop a 25-hour micro-credential called Basics of Urban Cooling. Click here to learn more