Refuges to provide shelter in Blacktown City during heatwaves
Published on 19 February 2021
Vulnerable residents will be able to seek shelter during heatwaves through a network of ‘heat refuges’ in an Australian-first trial in Blacktown City.
Blacktown City Council has approved the trial of ‘heat refuges’ – a network of Council and community-run air-conditioned venues where residents can go and be provided for during a significant heatwave event.
Residents vulnerable to extreme heat include the elderly, people living with disability or chronic illnesses, and young children who do not have access to air conditioning.
The network will initially include Council-owned venues (Lethbridge Park Community Centre, Tregear Community Centre, Whalan Community Centre, and Oakhurst Neighbourhood Centre) and community resources such as Blacktown Workers Club and Bidwill Uniting Church.
The network will only be activated when the Bureau of Meteorology issues a ‘severe’ or ‘extreme’ heatwave warning.
Blacktown City Mayor, Tony Bleasdale OAM, said the heat refuge trial was part of Council’s ongoing strategy to counter the effects of climate change.
“Sydney overall averages 10 days a year where temperatures are above 35 degrees whereas Western Sydney averages 10 to 20 days a year of temperatures above 35 degrees,” Mayor Bleasdale said.
“That figure is predicted to rise to between 15 to 30 extremely hot days by 2039 – this is a very concerning figure.
“The goal of our heat refuge strategy is to make sure the most vulnerable members of our community have a safe, local place they can go to on days of extreme heat.”
Council plans to trial the heat refuge strategy on a small scale during the next heatwave and then add more venues of there is a demand within our community.
Council was given grant funding of $54,500 by Resilience NSW through the Community Resilience Innovation Program to develop its heat refuge strategy.
During a heatwave, the not-for-profit organisation Active Care Network will transport clients to the venues, while the trial also involves organisations including Red Cross, Meals on Wheels, and Settlement Services International.
“We are so fortunate to have a network of community stakeholders and venues joining Council in this important trial, and we thank them for their generosity and vision,” Mayor Bleasdale said.
“Blacktown City Council has been a leader in urban environmental planning for decades and this trial is just one aspect of our ongoing commitment to addressing the many impacts of climate change on our community.”
In February 2020, Council acknowledged a climate emergency requiring immediate action by all levels of government, and committed to a target of 100% renewable electricity for Council operations by 2025.
Council also has a number of large-scale community tree planting programs aimed at reducing urban heat and is currently trialling heat reduced pavement reconstruction.
Picture: Blacktown City Council Environment Manager, Donna Wallace, Mayor Tony Bleasdale OAM, and Environment Project Officer, Justine Teo outside Oakhurst Community Centre.