On the 2nd of May 2021, twenty-five people gathered in Campbelltown for the Sweltering Cities South West Sydney community meeting. The passionate residents shared their great vision for a liveable, healthy, sustainable and equitable local community. They discussed the biggest challenges that come from living in hot suburbs with rising temperatures, as well as the solutions they feel best meet the community’s needs.
The biggest issues related to extreme heat and rising temperatures locally were:
- Transport. Many people were frustrated that South West Sydney still has to deal with old hot trains and bus stops without shelters. People discussed the health impacts of having to stand in the sun to wait for a bus without shelter or a seat. There is also too much air pollution from cars and trucks.
- Housing. Hot homes are a big health risk. We need higher standards for energy efficiency and passive cooling so people don’t have to rely on air conditioning.
- Not enough support for the most vulnerable. Heat impacts the elderly, people with disabilities, people with health conditions and poorer people. We aren’t doing enough to make sure people are safe during heatwaves.
- Unsustainable or bad planning resulting in more urban heat islands that are dangerously hot in summer. Dark surfaces, concrete and treeless streets are increasing temperatures.
- There are big impacts on the natural environment, including our lakes and rivers, native animals and green spaces. There is too much deforestation.
- It’s difficult for the community to contribute to building a better suburb. Many participants said that they had contributed to many government consultations but don’t feel listened to. They want to participate in sustainable development but feel shut out.
- Schools are too hot and under resourced. Kids struggle to learn in hot classrooms and some areas are impacted much more than others.
The solutions the community propose are:
- A planning system that creates liveable, green, and nice suburbs that people can be proud of. People should be able to have a voice in the planning process.
- A transportation system that supports all residents. People want green transportation that won’t contribute to air pollution.
- The environment and the community should be put first.
- Bus shelters and cool trains should be mandatory.
- Sustainable principles for development that include low pollution, access to water, trees and green space, and local jobs.
- Better funding for schools for cool buildings, play and learning spaces.
- Invest in technology for renewable energy powered transport and homes.
- Health services to support people who struggle in the heat.
- Climate action to stop rising temperatures.
- More trees!
- Transparency in the use of public funds and the government approval process.
We think that when decision makers are looking for ways to mitigate and adapt to rising temperatures they should start with these great ideas. The next steps are for us to continue working together for a more equitable and sustainable planning system, climate action and funding to support communities in our hottest suburbs. We’re going to take these challenges and solutions to the candidates in the upcoming NSW Local Government election, and to the NSW Planning Minister. Representatives will hear first hand about the community health impacts of rising temperatures and urban heat islands.