The climate crisis means we will see more frequent and extreme floods, bushfires and heat waves. Western Sydney is one of the regions most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change as we have seen with the increase in extreme flooding and heatwaves.
Western Sydney is suffering hot and getting hotter, and seemingly endless urban sprawl is destroying communities, the quality of life and the environment. One day in 2020 Penrith was officially the hottest place on earth with a temperature of 48.9 degrees!
Floods are also getting more extreme. In 2022 the Hawkesbury-Nepean experienced two major floods that exceeded historical records and caused widespread damage and disruption to thousands of residents. Instead of acting to end housing development on Western Sydney floodplains the NSW Government is trying to raise the Warragamba dam wall to facilitate even more urban sprawl.
The Greens have a plan to mitigate the impacts of climate change in Western Sydney, reduce the impacts of floods and end development on our floodplains and keep Western Sydney's towns and streets cooler in the summer.
THE GREENS WILL:
Legislate a ‘Green Belt’ urban growth boundary for Greater Sydney
Establish an independent statutory body to develop and deliver an ambitious state-wide urban cooling strategy, coordinating industry, State government and local governments and monitoring progress
Grow our urban forest with LGA specific tree canopy targets, large scale tree planting programs and improved tree protection laws
Ban development under the 1 in 500 year flood level on the Hawkesbury-Nepean and offer buybacks and land swaps for residents living under the 1 in 100 year flood level.
Lower the operating level of Warragamba Dam by 12 metres to increase flood resilience
Double the capacity of the desalination plant and Invest in purified water recycling
Reintroduce the Design and Place SEPP
Fully implement the recommendations from the 2022 O'Kane Fuller Flood Inquiry
BAN DEVELOPMENT ON SYDNEY’S FLOODPLAINS
The Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley covers 425 square kilometres of floodplain and in 2021 and 2022 we saw just how vulnerable the region is to climate change and increased development. The region flooded four times over 18 months reaching peaks of nearly 14 metres.
A decade of the NSW Liberal-National Government’s poor planning, climate denial and catering to developer interests has left the Hawkesbury-Nepean vulnerable. They have ripped up planning mechanisms that sought to mitigate the impacts of floods and allowed developers to build thousands of homes on flood prone land - putting thousands of families at risk and making floods worse for the residents who already live there.
The NSW Government has an expensive and flawed plan to raise the Warragamba Dam wall to reduce flooding and allow for the building of even more houses on the Hawkesbury-Nepean.
Since the NSW Government introduced legislation to raise the dam wall in 2018, a number of developments have been approved on the Western Sydney floodplain including the Penrith Panthers, Penrith Lakes, Marsden Park North and Vineyard development proposals.
The NSW Government even introduced local planning laws that allow for these developments to be built below the 1-in-100 year flood planning level even though International best practice recommends prohibiting development below the 1 in 500 year level.
This increased level of housing not only put more lives at risk in the recent floods but made floods worse for the people who already lived there. Residents have reported the new housing developments which have concreted thousands of hectares have caused floodwater to enter into their homes like never before .
This cannot continue. Climate change will make floods in the region more extreme and more frequent. Rainfall levels west of Sydney are set to increase 14.6% by 2090 increasing the 1 in 100 year flood height at Windsor by a metre to 18.4 metres.
The NSW Flood Inquiry, established by the NSW Government after the floods, found there was “no coherent approach” to building on floodplains in Australia and that “one of the most effective long-term flood risk mitigation mechanisms is stronger planning controls on current and future development”.
The Greens will act to mitigate flood impacts in the Hawkesbury-Nepean by:
- Fully implementing the recommendations of the 2022 O'Kane Fuller Flood Inquiry, including converting floodplains to Government leasehold and using them for purposes that minimise risk to life during flood events like sporting and recreational activities, garden plots and community gardens, agriculture and forestry, renewable energy production, parks and outdoor education activities.
- Prohibiting development on land below the 1-in-500 year flood levels.
- Instituting a buy-back program for houses below the 1-in-100 flood line would be appropriate
- Requiring developers to warn potential buyers of the flood risks on their land.
- Developing an online tool that shows the impact of past disasters on every parcel of land in NSW.
- Provide funding for building adaption for homes in flood-prone areas.
- Improve evacuation routes in the region.
- Increase funding for emergency services and supports.
LOWER WARRAGAMBA DAM LEVELS
The NSW Government's modelling used to justify raising the Warragamba Dam Wall are based on new housing developments with their own modelling showing that if no new houses are built it will only improve the chance of evacuation for 1700 people.
Instead of spending billions of dollars to and years of waste time
Reducing the full supply level of the Warragamba Dam by 12 metres would create a 795 GL buffer for incoming floods. This would see 64% of floods no longer reach a 1 in 100 year level at Windsor and reduce peak flood levels by approximately 2 metres.
Most importantly this can be achieved over the course of a month without causing damage to towns or the local environment.
By not raising the Warragamba Dam Wall the state will save billions and prevent the destruction of the World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains National Park.
DEVELOP SYDNEY’S WATER SECURITY
The Greater Sydney Water Strategy has highlighted the need to invest in rainfall-independent water sources, including tightening water restrictions sooner, expanded desalination and purified recycled water to increase the city’s drought resilience;
The draft Greater Sydney Water Strategy highlights Sydney’s high rainfall dependence and the need to reduce it by adding new RFIS. This is because our existing supplies are not sufficiently resilient to drought, whereas a higher proportion of RFIS will provide greater resilience
If we reduce the full supply level of Warragamba by 12m, that will free up 795 GL (39%) of space and reduce long-term sustainable yield by 80 GL/year
Sydney’s desal plant can produce 90 GL/year, but was designed to be expanded to produce a further 90 GL/year.
This plan will actually increase Sydney’s overall long-term sustainable water yield by 10 gigalitres per year and make Sydney’s water supply far more drought resilient.
Cities across the world are already using purified recycled water for drinking water supply including Singapore, Perth, Cape Town, and it’s being explored in major cities like London and Barcelona.
Sydney Water has identified eight possible schemes capable of delivering up to 140 GL/year in drought conditions.
Provide for enhanced stormwater management and harvesting and recycled water schemes to supply water for greening and cooling in new growth areas, reducing the demand on the drinking water system for these activities to 20 GL/year
The Greens will develop Sydney’s water security by:
- Doubling the capacity of the Kurnell Desalination Plant from 90 GL per year to 180 GL per year.
- Beginning community consultation for recycled drinking water and building a purified water recycling demonstration plant in Sydney.
- Introducing dynamic water restrictions that kick in faster to protect Sydney’s water supply from drought.
GREEN BELT - URBAN GROWTH BOUNDARIES TO END URBAN SPRAWL
In the 1950s, Sydney had a visionary plan to protect Sydney’s bush and farmland with a “Green Belt”.However the post WW2 population boom saw the Green belt gradually eroded by urban sprawl until it was abandoned in 1964.
Unfettered growth and developer greed have now pushed housing even further west onto food producing land, floodplains, bushfire affected areas and koala habitat. It’s short sighted and dangerous and it needs to stop!
What has replaced it is endless black-roofed housing developments, poorly designed suburbs with few public transport options, poor connectivity and loss of green space and tree canopy are all combining to make Western Sydney hotter and harder to live in, for people and our wildlife.
Melbourne has 12 protected ‘Green Wedges’ that form a ring around the city with one third containing public land, including national parks, other parks, reserves, and closed protected water catchments.
The Greens will revive Sydney’s “Green Belt” and end the expansion of urban sprawl, protecting habitat, floodplains and farmland in the process. We can do this by legislating the protection of public land and conservation on private land, with much stricter controls on land clearing and funding to retain and increase revegetation to ensure a continuous, connected area that allows endangered species like koalas to survive and thrive.
We’ll also remove biodiversity offset legislation that allows the clearing of habitat in Western Sydney and kills native plants and animals who have nowhere else to go.
The Greens will:
- End urban sprawl and protect all remaining bushland around Greater Sydney, creating a Green Belt.
- Introduce incentives to retain and increase native vegetation and cleared land to provide connectivity
- Tighten controls on land clearing and pursue prosecution of landowners who illegally clear vegetation
- Require councils in outer-Sydney LGAs to develop Green Belt Management Plans that protect the environment in the Green Belt and determine land use in consultation with the community.
- Cancel the Macarthur Priority Growth Area.
- Stop Stage 2 of the Figtree Hill development.
- Map, protect and enhance Sydney’s koala corridors.
RESTORE THE DESIGN AND PLACE SEPP
In 2022, the NSW government abandoned its Design & Place SEPP and Minister’s Planning Principles with the new Planning Minister giving the powerful developer lobby everything they were demanding. The Design & Place SEPP would have created new energy efficiency requirements and design standards for homes and require developers to consider climate resilience, sustainability, public space and green infrastructure in new developments.
The Greens will restore the Design and Place SEPP and the Ministers Planning Principles including:
- Requiring developers to comply with minimum standards for energy efficiency, water efficiency, thermal comfort, waste management and urban ecology.
- Prohibiting the use of dark roofs with a high solar reflectance index reducing urban heat by up to 1.5 degrees and reduce energy bills by up to 40%
- Improved Apartment Design guide including requiring bike parking, recycled water infrastructure and EV charging ready parking spots
- Improved Urban Design Guide including requirements for ‘20-minute walkable neighbourhoods’ and improved public spaces
COOLER STREETS AND TOWNS
Western Sydney can be up to 10 degrees hotter in summer than other parts of sydney. Climate change and the urban heat island effect are making it even hotter. Climate modelling is predicting that 50 degree days will become far more common by 2050. That means that Western Sydney will face an unfair burden of increasingly high energy bills, lost productivity, and lost learning and recreation time, and poorer health: heatwaves are NSW’s deadliest natural disasters, killing people, pets, wildlife and vegetation.
We need to cool down our streets, suburbs and towns. By increasing green space and canopy cover, rolling out large-scale use of heat-reflective building materials and using widespread water-based cooling systems, the science tells us we can reduce the average peak ambient temperature in Western Sydney by up to 2.5 degrees.
That kind of difference in temperature is huge. It will reduce Western Sydney’s total electricity demand over summer by 0.8-0.9 TWh – avoiding the equivalent of nearly one million tons of CO2 emissions every year. It could also reduce heat-related deaths by almost half, bringing fatalities down from 14 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants to 7.5.
By mandating some essential changes on our planning controls, we can make Western Sydney a safer and more comfortable place to live.
The Greens will use an integrated, science-based approach to reduce the heat in Western Sydney by:
- Dedicate part of the Greens proposed Developer Profits Tax towards measures to reduce urban heat.
- Establishing an independent statutory body to develop and deliver an ambitious state-wide urban cooling strategy, coordinating industry, State government and local governments and monitoring progress
- Raising BASIX standards for energy efficiency in all new buildings.
- Offering incentives for energy efficient retrofits of existing buildings.
- Introducing planning provisions that increase vegetation cover, reduce hard surfaces, promote passive cooling and shading, and enhance urban design quality.
- Incorporating sustainable and water-sensitive design practices into urban planning and new developments that maximise natural ventilation, minimise impervious surfaces, capture and reuse stormwater runoff, and create green roofs and walls
- Fund education campaigns to raise awareness of the health risks of heatwaves and provide information on how to stay healthy in the heat
- Provide cooling centres and water misting stations in public places
GROWING OUR URBAN FORESTS
Our urban forests are an essential part of our city, and a critical part of our response to the climate crisis. Our tree-lined streets not only improve liveability and amenity for residents, but they also reduce the heat island effect and help cool our cities by providing shade and storing carbon.
Despite Greater Sydney having a target of 40% tree canopy cover by 2030, most Sydney councils are actually losing their tree canopies. While some councils offer protection for significant trees, there is a lack of consistency in the level of protection across the state. Much of our canopy loss occurs on private land, where it is more difficult to monitor or prevent tree destruction.
The Greens will expand our urban forests and create more shade by:
- Setting ambitious tree canopy targets per LGA to ensure an even distribution of tree plantings to meet the 40% tree canopy target.
- Rolling out a large-scale mature tree planting project, identifying priority locations using heat mapping and assessing canopy cover and selecting trees for drought and heat resistance, passive irrigation and a cool, dense canopy.
- Tracking and managing Western Sydney’s urban forest through a coordinated central strategy that manages trees as live assets, keeps trees healthy in stress conditions and identifies areas that lack adequate tree canopy.
- Supporting Councils to strengthen enforcement of tree protection regulations and improve consistency in tree protection across the state.
- Introducing stronger deterrents to prevent tree loss on private land, including by investigating a price on tree loss in all development activity, based on the age, health and value of the tree.
- Requiring the replacement of any trees that must be legally removed, through an offset system.
- Increasing grass cover and native vegetation to replace asphalt and concrete where appropriate to reduce reflected light from hard surfaces.
- Supporting the implementation of the Greater Sydney Green Grid, which promotes the creation of a network of high quality open spaces that supports recreation, biodiversity and waterway health and connects strategic, district and local centres, public transport hubs, and residential areas.