Wednesday, 28 August 2019 15:45

President's message: Board endorses Western Sydney Energy Program

WSROC President Barry Calvert WSROC President Barry Calvert

President’s message

The winter months have not been idle, with some positive developments for member councils and WSROC projects.

Most recently, at the third Board meeting for the year - kindly hosted by Blue Mountains City on August 22 - the Board endorsed the draft Western Sydney Energy program (WSEP), to assist nine local councils in increased collaboration on issues, opportunities and projects related to energy.

Working in consultation with Ironbark Sustainability, a council-led steering committee and working groups will focus on four key areas:

  • Renewable energy transformation
  • Transport infrastructure
  • Supporting community access to services that reduce energy costs
  • Implementing best practice in energy planning and design for key precincts.

Western Sydney councils are achieving real inroads in renewable energy. Building on the foundations of other successful WSROC projects, including the Light Years Ahead Program, Turn Down the Heat and the Regional Waste Strategy, the WSEP will provide a unified voice to support councils and communities in gaining access to more reliable, lower cost energy and work toward a future of zero net carbon emissions.

In July and August, CEO Charles Casuscelli and I attended a series of meetings with the new NSW Ministers for Planning and Public Spaces, Energy and Environment and Water, to discuss key priorities for member councils and to ensure our concerns are brought to the fore.

In particular, future growth and planning were broached with regard to the urgent priorities identified under the Turn Down the Heat Strategy, alongside the need for high-level recognition that urban heat mitigation is an essential first-order priority for the Western and Central cities.

Other key points of discussion included a review of the current planning framework and identification of appropriate design and planning considerations for State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs); review of infrastructure, including our electricity grid, to ensure its resilience; and the need for greater collaboration with councils – for example, on the roll-out of the 5 Million Trees Strategy.

On the whole, these meetings were encouraging and positive, which augurs well for future strategic discussions. We continue to facilitate NSW Government support for councils and for further collaborative, consultative engagement.

Two other excellent pieces of news concerning WSROC projects, in recent weeks, are the funding secured for the Cool Suburbs project, and the inclusion of the Turn Down the Heat Strategy in the University of Western Sydney’s Master of Urban Planning program.

The Cool Suburbs project seeks to assist government, developers and the community to identify and implement best practice in urban cooling and increase the region’s resilience to extreme heat. The project will develop a voluntary rating tool, to deliver a ‘Cool Score’ for new and existing developments (building, street, precinct or suburb), based on elements of their design. WSROC secured $108,000 to fund Cool Suburbs - a collaboration between WSROC, Resilient Sydney and the Greater Sydney Commission, to be delivered between 2019-2021.

WSROC’s Turn Down the Heat strategy continues to increase in relevance. The University of Western Sydney’s Master of Planning study program will include a new unit focused on urban heat and mitigation, for which the TDTH strategy will be required reading.  Delivered by Dr Sebastian Pfautsch, this unit is the first of its kind at the University, and will take an interdisciplinary approach, including guest lecturers from Western Sydney councils.

Finally - after exhaustive action from councils throughout the state - WSROC welcomed the NSW Government’s decision in August, to fund the first year of the Emergency Services Levy increase.

To re-iterate: WSROC whole-heartedly supports the move to improve compensation for our emergency service professionals. However, the manner in which the increase was originally implemented – without warning or consultation – did not take into account councils’ budgetary processes, nor the financial pressure the imminent increase signified. The unfairness of this was recognised in the government’s decision.

Having met with Minister Hancock earlier this month, it is apparent that the Minister has a depth of understanding of local government, including the challenges faced with regards to sustainable funding. We are looking forward to working closely with the Minister and her colleagues, toward further realisation of our key priorities in the coming months.  

Last modified on Wednesday, 28 August 2019 17:09