A key challenge for the Western Sydney region is balancing the demands of a growing urban population with the need to protect its unique natural environments.
The region features important rural and agricultural lands, rare and spectacular natural bushland. The area is home to remnants of native Cumberland Plain Bushland, the pristine World Heritage-listed areas of the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury-Nepean and Georges River systems and their catchments.
As the region develops, wide scale vegetation clearing is significantly reducing certain ecological communities as well as habitat for native fauna. Vegetation clearing also creates a number of challenges from a water management and urban heat perspective.
Urban heat (where man-made surfaces such as concrete absorb and hold the sun’s heat) is an issue for all cities but Western Sydney’s unique geography and lack of sea-breeze means the region is already much hotter than its coastal counterparts.
According to recent research from the Office of Environment and Heritage, sprawling greenfield developments could see western Sydney experience between five and 10 additional hot days by 2030[i].
In addition to vegetation clearing, a growing population means greater levels of household and construction waste.
With landfill space in short supply, there is a need to not only plan for future waste infrastructure at the state level, but to promote recycling and reuse in order to reduce the amount of waste currently being produced by individuals and organisations.
The challenges facing Western Sydney are significant, however the region’s rapid growth also provides an opportunity to implement large-scale sustainability measures and new technologies across developing communities.
The NSW Government’s move towards regional and precinct planning, as seen in the establishment of the Greater Sydney Commission and the West’s Priority Growth Areas, also provides a significant opportunity to address large-scale issues relating to urban heat, biodiversity conservation and waste management at the regional level.
Urban growth is inevitable, however through good planning and management the impacts on both the natural environment and communities can be minimised.
- Ensure the proposed Western Sydney airport is subject to stringent environmental controls including protection of the UNESCO listed Blue Mountains Greater World Heritage Area.
- Ensure planning for biodiversity conservation and environmental management to be included in Metro Plans. Including support for revegetation and protection of the endangered Cumberland Plain Woodland.
- Provide support and funding for urban and peri-urban (whole-of-catchment) water management strategies to reduce rates of runoff, restore riparian zones and manage aquatic weeds and flood mitigation.
- Develop programs to assist with protecting biodiversity threatened by urban sprawl.
- Develop energy efficiency programs to reduce our emissions and encourage use of the latest technologies in the region.
- Ensure recycling and resource recovery is a priority for all major infrastructure projects in the region.
- Develop a comprehensive urban heat mitigation and management strategy for Western Sydney.
- Encourage the safe management and disposal of asbestos-containing materials.
- Ensure planning for present and future waste management is included in the Sydney Metropolitan Plans.
- Ensure firm controls to prevent environmental damage from coal seam gas exploration and mining.
WSROC – Submission to the NSW Government regarding the proposed biodiversity conservation reform (Published 29 June, 2016)
Climate change adaptation
Blacktown City Council – Climate Change Action and Adaptation Plan (Council is currently updating the Plan to reflect our increased commitment to reducing emissions and being a more sustainable city. The new plan will be available in December 2016).
Environment and sustainability
Waste and resource recovery
WSROC – National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme – Operational Review (Published 5 September, 2016)
WSROC – The Next Generation NSW Energy from Waste Submission (Published 5 September, 2016)
WSROC – Submission NSW Container Deposit Scheme – Discussion Paper Review (Published February, 2016)
WSROC – Western Sydney Airport EIS Review Submission – Waste and Recycling (Published December, 2015)
Western Sydney news articles:
Beat the heat: Western Sydney tackles the urban heat island effect (Sydney Morning Herald, January 2016)
Sydney weather: The heat just keeps on coming with warm start to autumn ahead (Sydney Morning Herald, February 2016 - Includes a short video explaining the UHI effect)
WSROC media releases:
Media release: West throwing away $14 million each year (Published, 30 June, 2016)
Media release: WSROC welcomes federal action on urban heat (Published, 22 January, 2016)
Media release: Concrete jungle brings sizzle to the suburbs (Published, 14 January, 2016)
[i] NSW Government Office of Environment and Heritage. Urban Heat. Available from: http://www.climatechange.environment.nsw.gov.au/Impacts-of-climate-change/Heat/Urban-heat