News of western Sydney’s heat shelters is now global – time to bring back the “cooling” SEPP Mr Perrottet?

COMMENT: NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet, we hear, won’t be paying much attention to the axing of the Design and Place State Environmental Planning Policy by relatively new Planning Minister Anthony Roberts if no-one much kicks up a fuss.

Problem is people are kicking up a fuss. A growing number of them.

It’s not just only the professionals in the built environment sector that the premier should be worried about. Nor the angry environmental and community planning advocates who can feel their stocks rising as the financial community starts to demand evidence of strong natural capital on their balance sheets.

And not the tut-tutting from the premium builders and developers worried about how the poor behavior and worse intent of second tier developers will impact on their own hard-won green reputations.

What the premier needs to pay attention to is how the message is now seeping out to the mainstream media and further afield, globally, with potential brand damage to Sydney’s reputation as a glorious place to live.

There’s reasonably strong coverage in the mainstream print/online media but in recent days there was some excellent cut-through – that only television can manage – with Waleed Aly from Channel 10’s The Project who has managed to decimate the notion that dark roofs on housing in a heating climate were in any way acceptable.

In the process, he’s made the ideological adherents of dark roofs look, at best, uneducated and, at worst, uncaring.

The clip shows an interview with urban heat island expert Dr Sebastian Pfautsch, nailing the issue.

“We have data that shows that black roofs get to about 80 degrees Celsius, not Fahrenheit,” Dr Pfautsch says in the clip.

Rubberised or synthetic surfaces in playgrounds measure more than 100 degree celsius.

“It fills me with grief – I can’t put it any other way – the science is really clear about the contribution. We can make to save energy and to keep our suburbs cooler just by changing the color of our roofs.”

The segment then pans to a resident of western Sydney who says he and his partner endure 10 degrees hotter than eastern parts of Sydney and must sometimes go to heat shelters to protect themselves from searing heat and huge energy bills to keep themselves cool.

Pfautsch told The Fifth Estate on Tuesday afternoon he’d been inundated for comments on dark roofs and the urban heat island effect, and had spoken to a range of media from ABC Queensland to Gardening Australia, The Daily Telegraph and several radio stations from mainstream to community-run, from eastern Sydney to Campbelltown.

“I do a lot of media engagement – ​​and it’s great to see even in the cooler months people are talking about heat. The issue is not going away. Scientists need to chip away.”

Globally, he said, the interest is also strong.

At COP 26 in Glasgow Dr Pfautsch spoke at a session entitled “Life at 50 Degrees” about Western Sydney which reached 1 billion potential readers in 22 countries and five languages.

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