Migrant-stuffed Western Sydney bakes under concrete

CoreLogic has released research showing that Sydney’s fast growing west is becoming increasingly hot, while the wealthy inner-east is enjoying stable temperatures:

Western Sydney is undergoing unprecedented development and transformation, reflecting the vast size and population growth of the region.

However, Western Sydney is also getting hotter. Data from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology shows the mean of maximum daily temperatures each month is rising.

The dataset below shows this across summer months from data collected at the Penrith Lakes weather station.

Of the 24 years covered in this back series, a majority of temperatures at the 95th percentile or higher are concentrated in the past 6 years.

Climate projections reported by the Australia institute projected that by 2030, Penrith could see 22 days of the year where temperatures surpass 35˚C.

Meanwhile, the eastern suburbs of Sydney are expected to remain relatively cool, with just 7 of these days projected in Coogee.

Reducing thermal discomfort is an increasing focus for urban planners. Water technologies, tree canopy and the use of cool materials are demonstrably effective.

But some of these heat management methods don’t mix well with the development in Western Sydney.

The construction of the Western Sydney airport for example, will require some level of mitigation for bird and bat strike, including limiting the amount of trees within a certain radius of the airport.

These complexities increase the challenge that rising temperatures place on the ambitious developments for Western Sydney.

Part of the problem is that Western Sydney’s extreme population growth and development is causing a loss of green space, thus exacerbating the urban heat island effect. As reported in The ABC:

Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) records show annual mean maximum temperatures in the western Sydney suburb have increased by approximately 1.1 degrees Celsius since 1980.

“In summer you can’t leave the house until about 5:00pm,” [mother Sophie Combs] said…

The 47-year-old said finding shade while playing outdoors with her young son, Asher, was getting harder.

“It’s just getting overdeveloped, so there’s less trees than there were,” she said…

A lack of new trees, along with the removal of established trees, has angered western Sydney residents.

Lisa Harrold, who has lived in the area for four decades, said the heat had become unbearable.

“Some days you literally cannot go outside,” she said.

“We find with the increased density of houses [and] road systems, it doesn’t cool down overnight”…

“They’re removing trees faster than they can potentially ever replace them and to exacerbate that issue, the green spaces are disappearing too under a mountain of concrete,” she said…

Climate researchers noted similar:

Last weekend was no exception with temperatures in Penrith, in the city’s west, peaking at 47.3C while the area by the Harbour Bridge topped out more than five degrees cooler.

But far from this being simply a natural quirk of geography, human interference has actually exacerbated the boiling temperatures in our inland suburbs, experts say, by creating a “heat dome” blocking cooler air.

And often, it’s less affluent areas that feel the worst of the heat while richer enclaves enjoy an altogether more comfortable day…

“There’s much more solar radiation absorbing materials in built-up areas, such as black asphalt and concrete, lots of anthropogenic heat from cars, airconditioning and industry and less greenery and water, and this increases the temperature and has a serious impact on energy consumption, productivity, health and morbidity,” [Mattheos Santamouris, a professor of high performance architecture at UNSW] said…

“Especially in western Sydney, we were able to make the close association that high-density housing developments had cleared land and lacked tree cover, and dark roads were corridors where heat just couldn’t escape,” [Dr Brent Jacobs, research director at the Institute of Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney] said.

According to the ABS’ projections, Sydney’s population is projected to nearly double to almost 10 million people over the next half century, with most of this growth occurring in Sydney’s West:

In addition to crush-loading infrastructure and services, the population flood is projected to see Sydney transform into a high-rise city, with the Urban Taskforce projecting that only one quarter of dwellings will be detached houses in 2057, down significantly from 55% currently:

This transformation will obviously also see reduced access to green space, according to Infrastructure Australia’s modelling (see last row below):

Not to worry. The head of the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC), Lucy Turnbull, sees an “exciting” future for Western Sydney as it is crush-loaded with another 1.2 million people:

GSC’s chief commissioner Lucy Turnbull… said places such as Parramatta and Bankstown represented the “future of Sydney and Australia” with a youthful and diverse population making them “exciting” corners of the wider city…. “1.2 million people in western Sydney in the next 20 years is a reasonable forecast”…

In reality, the GSC is running a form of economic apartheid whereby Western Sydney shoulders the lion’s share of immigration and population growth to provide cheap foreign labour and inflated demand to the wealthy barons in the East.

This model enables the Elites in the East to profit from the rentier services of over-priced ghetto apartments and postage stamp houses, inflated land banks, as well as higher volumes of mortgages and retail sales, while not having to share in the downsides of congestion and eroded amenity.

For the ordinary folk in Sydney’s West, the urban infill utopia of jamming millions more people into the existing urban footprint necessarily means chewing-up green space as backyards, trees and open space are removed to make way for high density living. And this will necessarily exacerbate the ‘heat island’ effect afflicting West, in turn eroding living standards and raising energy use (think air conditioners).

Leith van Onselen
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