Thursday, 14 July 2022 10:35

President’s message, July 2022

WSROC President, Clr Barry Calvert WSROC President, Clr Barry Calvert

As the fourth flood emergency in a year cut a swathe of destruction through Sydney’s Greater Western Suburbs, leaving communities devastated and causing tens of thousands of residents to flee their homes, you might be justified in wondering in whose interest NSW planning laws are written.

Earlier this year, the NSW Minister for Planning and Housing decided to throw out the draft Design and Place SEPP which, among other things, was expressly designed to improve consideration of hazard resilience in new housing development.

The draft Design and Place SEPP was also intended to improve housing quality and ensure additional investment in community infrastructure like parks and community centres.

The explanation offered by the Government for rejecting the Design and Place SEPP is that its measures would increase the cost of housing.

This will be of scant comfort for those families now having to choose between rebuilding their homes ruined by the floods, paying annual insurance premiums that can cost over $10,000 per year while struggling with their mortgages, or moving homes altogether — if they can afford to do so.

Nor are floods the only environmental disaster impacting people’s lives in Greater Western Sydney.

Heatwaves, for example, kill more Australians than floods, storms and bushfires combined. Western Sydney households already use 100% more electricity than other parts of Sydney to cool their homes in summer while energy bills continue to soar.

Barry SMALL IMG 6660Indeed, WSROC has been contacted by local families who have been slapped with electricity rate increases of more than 50%.

Yet governments are not planning for heatwave emergencies, either. 

I have been calling for an urgent review of heatwave planning based on WSROC’s ‘Heat Smart Resilience Framework’ that outlines 25 recommendations for building resilience to extreme heat.

Regrettably, the ever more serious impacts of climate change are among a number of daunting challenges confronting the residents of Greater Western Sydney and the councils that represent them.

For that reason, I was pleased recently to join with WSROC mayors and councillors in a special Strategy Planning and Priorities Workshop (pictured) to set WSROC’s agenda for the next four years, focusing on greater consideration for the most vulnerable in the region.

The workshop was a highly productive exchange of ideas and insights on crucial issues for Western Sydney, including the need for best-practice disaster planning that considers prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.

Among the many other important issues that were discussed during the workshop were better social and affordable housing outcomes for Greater Western Sydney; economic development and local job creation; comprehensive transport solutions; emissions reduction and energy efficiency; improved waste management and resource recovery; urban heat resilience and emergency management; increased financial resilience of councils, and ensuring new development includes provision for adequate social infrastructure, parks, and community spaces.

WSROC staff are currently collating the valuable feedback and the final priorities will be presented to the WSROC Board in the coming months. I look forward to sharing that news with you then.

Last modified on Monday, 18 July 2022 10:31