Sustainability Challenges

Our Regions Challenges

The population of Sydney is expected to increase by 1 million people, 600,000 of whom are anticipated to settle in GWS within the next 20 years. This population increase will be accompanied by large scale development of housing, transport, employment and social infrastructure; all of which can potentially affect the health and wellbeing of new residents and people living across the region.

Our RCE have identifies four major regional challenges that are being address by RCE-GWS through our working groups. These challenges include

  • Transitioning to a low carbon economy
  • Developing sustainable communities
  • Food security and agriculture
  • Conserving biodiversity and river health

Transitioning to a Low Carbon Economy

Advances in technology and policy will allow renewable energy and energy efficiency to play major roles in displacing fossil fuels. As traditional sectors reassess their carbon impacts, the economy will need to be driven by value-added future technologies including those which focus on energy, water and resource efficiency, local food, broadband communication and high-tech industries. This transition will need particular consideration in GWS, which has a structurally different economic basis to the more service-oriented coastal area of Sydney CBD.

Sustainable Communities

Transport

Transition from high car dependence to more sustainable transport modes will require a combination of new infrastructure and increased service levels and improvements in the amenity of existing services. Nowhere is the issue of adequate transport more critical than in Western Sydney. In the North West only 11.4% of our population use public transport to get to work, while 69.9% use a private vehicle. In the south, only 11% of the Liverpool population use public transport to get to work. This is not a matter of choice; the transport services simply aren't there.

Housing

The region has an inefficient housing stock, with a heavy reliance on air conditioning and overuse of water. Housing in GWS needs to include environmentally sustainable, flexible and universal design (such that more people can age in place, and people with varying abilities can access housing or visit loved ones), as well as address affordability through a broader range of tenure options.

Health and Wellbeing

The major health considerations for GWS are physical activities, social connectedness, employment and access to healthy food, services and mobility which are all influenced by transport services, infrastructure and local agricultural production. These all have integrated themes that relate directly to public health, developing more active lifestyles and living and working productively with diversity, resource conservation and economic vitality.

Ensuring Agricultural Sustainability and Food Security

Peri-urban agriculture is characterised by small scale farms run by culturally and linguistically diverse groups, with a reported farm gate value of over $1 billion per annum. There is evidence that this type of agriculture is increasingly intensive in nature while at the same time decreasingly soil reliant. With urban development encroaching on peri-urban agriculture the challenge will be to supply and secure the population with equitably priced fresh produce in an environmentally sustainable way. Market gardens are typically about two hectares in size and play a vital role in Sydney ┬ís food supply, providing up to 90% of the region's vegetables.

Conserving Biodiversity and River Health

Less than 6% of the Cumberland Plain Woodlands in the Sydney Basin now remain in fragmented stands due to human use for farming, industry and housing. These remaining fragments occur in areas subject to intense pressure from urban development. The Cumberland Plains Woodland has been listed as an endangered ecological community under respective Legislation. A Recovery Plan for this Woodland is being prepared by the NSW Government. The health of the major river systems in GWS - the Hawkesbury-Nepean and the Parramatta rivers is in decline and they face a number of pressing issues, including the need for increased water flows, water security, reduced nutrient inputs and greater collaboration among catchment stakeholders.