Shelter during heatwaves

Article image - Shelter during heatwaves Blacktown City Council Environment Manager, Donna Wallace, Mayor Tony Bleasdale OAM, and Environment Project Officer, Justine Teo outside Oakhurst Community Centre.

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, New South Wales, 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 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.

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.

“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 if there is a demand within the community.

Council received grant funding of $54,500 through the Community Resilience Innovation Program to develop its heat refuge strategy.

Not-for-profit organisation, Active Care Network will provide transport for clients during the trial, and organisations including Red Cross, Meals on Wheels, and Settlement Services International will also be involved.

“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.”