Danger! Extreme Heat! Watch Out!

Climate change is having a bigger and bigger impact on every aspect of our lives in Blacktown. That’s why, in February 2020, Blacktown City Council declared a Climate Emergency. We were part of the grass-roots campaign pressing for that urgent action.

Our summers are getting dangerously hot, besides which Western Sydney is growing fast. Land is being cleared to make way for more roads, car parks, industrial estates, houses and, of course, the Western Sydney aerotropolis.

Did you know that bitumen surfaces can reach 80°C, storing heat during the day and releasing it during the night? No wonder experts talk about an “urban island heat effect.” That is exactly what is growing like a cancer in Western Sydney as green spaces are lost to developer greed.

Extreme heat endangers our health. At the greatest risk are outdoor workers, young children, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses—especially those with diabetes or obesity, and/or heart, respiratory and kidney problems. Very hot nights make it hard even for healthy folk to sleep. Sleeplessness affects our health, our well-being—even our safety on the roads.

People vote with their feet against climate change when they head for cinemas, shopping centres and clubs just to get away from the heat. Can’t a Council as rich as Blacktown provide something better?

Len’s Commitment to You

As your Ward 2 councillor on Blacktown City Council, Len will do all he can to protect you and your family from extreme heat. He and your local Greens team are especially concerned for the sick and elderly, those who live in rental properties, those who don’t have rooftop solar, and those who can’t afford to run an air conditioner.

We will also push Council to prioritise those streets and suburbs where the residents are at greatest risk from extreme heat. Council must get more thermal mapping done to find out exactly which streets and suburbs are the hottest.

Our Beat the Heat Plan Part 1: More Natural Shade, More Green Cover

We will work for more “green cover”—in fact, 40/2040: 40% tree cover by 2040. Increasing the tree canopy (and making more use of water features such as lakes, ponds and fountains) is a great way of cooling our neighbourhoods down. Trees solve other problems, too. They filter out pollution, provide habitat for birds and reduce the need for air conditioning in the houses they are next to.

We will pressure Council to make Ward 2 leafy again. We will demand:

  • the completion of Council’s Street Tree Inventory, which will give Council workers the information they need to manage our precious street trees better;

  • a sequel to the Cool Streets Project, which empowered Glenwood residents to choose the trees that would do the most to cool their neighbourhoods down;

  • the completion of tree plantings along the railway line at Harvey Road, Kings Park;

  • the replanting of streetscapes (along with pruning of degraded trees) in Joseph Banks Drive, Kings Langley and various places in Seven Hills;

  • the funding of the streetscape improvement program in the Kings Park Industrial Estate.

Part 2 of Our Plan: Effective Artificial Shade Where It Is Needed

As we explain in another blogpost on this site, we will fight for shade sails and drinking founBlacktown Ward 2's harsh, hot playgroundstains at playgrounds across Ward 2, so that bleak scenes like this, from the Ernie Ireland Reserve in Glenwood, become a thing of the past.

We will push for an inquiry into designs for bus shelters that would protect us better from the heat, with ventilation, roof insulation, more shade, and no glass. The Climate Adapted People Shelters project would be a good place to start. We will not rest until there are no bus stops without bus shelters.

We will press for the prompt evaluation of Council’s pilot Heat Refuges Program so that comprehensive plans can be in place in time for the next hot summer. We will think outside the box about possible venues for heat refuges. For example, why not keep Blacktown Aquatic Centre and Blacktown Leisure Centre open until midnight in weeks when the mercury rises above 40°C? Why not lobby Resilience NSW (the NSW emergency management agency) to test the after-hours use of Lalor Park Public School, Seven Hills Public School and Seven Hills High School as heatwave shelters for families that don’t have air conditioning?

Part 3 of Our Plan: The Greens Partnership Across All Levels of Government

While we are active on the local scene, your Greens MPs and Senators in state and federal parliaments will be arguing strongly for the new building codes, regulations and resources we need to build a better Blacktown. Here’s what must be done:

  • Replacement of dark roofs with lighter, more reflective surfaces and/or the planting of gardens on rooftops and walls;

  • Introduction and enforcement of appropriate spacing requirements (including green-space requirements) in new housing estates;

  • Redesign of plazas, car parks, playgrounds and footpaths with lighter, more reflective surfaces, tree canopies, solar arrays and shade sails.

P.S. Why Good Climate Action Could Be Good Business Action

A cooler, more sustainable Blacktown could become a centre for businesses that specialise in managing extreme heat: among others, the architects, builders and landscapers of a cooler, more sustainable NSW.