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Exposure to natural and urban hazards is reduced

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Objective 37

Greater Sydney is subject to a range of natural and urban hazards which can be exacerbated by climate change. Vulnerability and exposure to these hazards are shaped by environmental, social and economic factors. To be resilient, communities need social cohesion, access to economic resources, and access to quality information about hazards that may affect them and their property. Objective 7 sets out approaches for making communities more healthy, resilient and socially connected.

Multiple State agencies and councils use a range of policies and tools to reduce risks from natural and urban hazards, however strategic land use planning can play a greater role in supporting a more consistent approach to reducing exposure to hazards. Centralised and coordinated collection of data on hazards, particularly on how infrastructure is exposed to hazards, will help embed resilience in land use planning across all levels of government. Effective and transparent communication and guidance about acceptable levels of exposure to hazards will also help protect communities.

Bushfires and flooding are significant natural hazards across many areas of Greater Sydney. These hazards are addressed through State guidelines, including the Floodplain Development Manual 2005 and Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006 (which is currently being reviewed). The NSW Flood Data Portal enables better coordination and access to information on flood risks across Greater Sydney. Emergency services are vital in preparing communities for natural hazards and responding to events and disasters.

The Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley has a high flood risk and climate change may increase the severity and frequency of floods in the future. Resilient Valley, Resilient Communities - Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley Flood Risk Management Strategy aims to reduce the potential risk to life, the economy and communities. This strategy highlights the importance of strategic and integrated land use and road planning and adequate local roads for evacuation. Given the severity and regional-scale of the flood risk, the strategy looks at areas affected by the probable maximum flood as well as the 1 in 100 chance per year flood. District Plans will set out more detailed planning principles for addressing flood risk in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley.

Although Greater Sydney's air quality is good by world standards, air pollution can exceed national standards at times and continues to have an impact on human health. Even if air pollution is maintained at current levels, population growth in the north west and south west of Greater Sydney, which has greater exposure to air pollution, raises the risk of more people being exposed to pollution.

The greatest benefits to public health come from reducing long-term exposure to air pollution, particularly in highly populated areas. The planning and design of neighbourhoods can help reduce exposure to air pollution by, for example, locating sensitive land uses like schools away from busy roads and expanding the urban tree canopy. Expanding the air quality monitoring network across Greater Sydney, including new monitoring sites in Greater Parramatta and the Harbour CBD, will help inform future decisions to improve air quality.

Transport, particularly freight transport, can produce air pollution and noise. However, advances in technology and the adoption of higher standards will help reduce these environmental impacts over the long term. Walking and cycling provides an efficient and reliable way to create great places, support healthy and socially connected communities and encourage physical activity, without adding to air pollution.

Hazards such as noise pollution and soil and water contamination are also caused by a range of human activities. State Environmental Planning Policy No 55 - Remediation of Land and its associated guidelines manage the rezoning and development of contaminated land. The Environment Protection Authority and councils manage waste, agricultural activities and industrial processes like construction, manufacturing and mining.

Photograph of the river and tree-lined banks of the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley

The Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley (Sydney Water)

Some of these require buffers to manage odour and noise and some also require licensing to manage impacts from industrial emissions and the disposal of waste products such as treated waste water. Australian Standards are in place to manage impacts from aircraft noise.

Greater Sydney, particularly its rural lands, is at risk from biosecurity hazards such as pests and diseases that could threaten agriculture, the environment and community safety. Biosecurity hazards are managed through the Greater Sydney Peri Urban Biosecurity Program.

Effective land use planning and design can reduce the exposure to natural and urban hazards and build resilience to shocks and stresses. Growth and change need to be considered at a local level when making structural decisions about the region's growth, and when considering cumulative impacts at district and regional levels. Current guidelines and planning controls minimise hazards and pollution by:

  • avoiding the placement of new communities in areas exposed to existing and potential natural hazards
  • managing growth in existing neighbourhoods that are exposed and vulnerable to natural hazards
  • in exceptional circumstances, reducing the number of people and the amount of property vulnerable to natural hazards, through the managed retreat of development
  • using buffers to limit exposure to hazardous and offensive industries, noise and odour
  • designing neighbourhoods and buildings that minimise exposure to noise and air pollution in the vicinity of busy rail lines and roads, including freight networks
  • cooling the landscape by retaining water and protecting, enhancing and extending the urban tree canopy to mitigate the urban heat island effect (refer to Objective 25, Objective 30, and Objective 38).

The wellbeing and social cohesion of a community can affect a community's ability to prepare, respond to and recover from acute shocks, noting there are different levels of vulnerability between communities. Planning for strong and cohesive communities is set out in the Liveability Chapter.

Strategy 37.1

Avoid locating new urban development in areas exposed to natural and urban hazards and consider options to limit the intensification of development in existing urban areas most exposed to hazards.

Strategy 37.2

Respond to the direction for managing flood risk in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley as set out in Resilient Valley, Resilient Communities - Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley Flood Risk Management Strategy