Green Infrastructure Needed to Reduce Potential Heatwave Health Crisis

A CITY-WIDE focus on green infrastructure is urgently required to help cope with a potential health crisis caused by more frequent and longer lasting heatwaves.

An environmental engineering expert at UWA has identified dozens of Perth suburbs that he believes are most at risk, with temperatures in some areas capable of soaring up to 10C higher than their greener, leafier counterparts.

Research by Professor Anas Ghadouani, executive director of the Co-operative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities, has identified large swathes of Melville – including Myaree, Booragoon, Alfred Cove and Attadale – as among the suburbs most vulnerable to extreme heat.

“It is really no surprise that some suburbs are more at risk than others – there are some old large industry areas that are nothing but concrete,” Dr Ghadouani said.

“Councils now need to look at the detail and find out how they can mitigate that. We need to retrofit our city to cope with what the climate has in store for us.

“It requires a holistic approach to planning and a fundamental inclusion of green infrastructure, which includes trees and vegetation as well as surface water.

“When you say to someone they need to put a pipe on their property they can understand – it’s crucial to bring in water and take away waste. Trees are just as essential as pipes. Without trees people will die of heat stroke.”

In May last year, Mayor Russell Aubrey put up a motion to begin investigating the creation of an urban forest in Melville.

“We were one of the first local governments in WA to adopt a climate adaptation strategy and have already embarked on an urban forest strategy,” he said.

“Where practicable the strategy will include softer, more permeable surfaces and increased levels of tree canopy cover in our suburbs to help mitigate the heat island effect of the urban environment.

“As Melville’s suburbs are already established developed areas, there is limited opportunity for green spaces to be created in the City.

“However, better use of open spaces, increasing trees through better design, the consideration for a greener city when place-making and green innovation from developers are all strategies being encouraged in appropriate locations.”

Dr Ghadouani said that with Perth’s climate predicted to become hotter and drier in coming years, the onus was not just on government to try to mitigate the effects.

“Everybody has to do their bit,” he said.

“It’s important for homeowners to keep their trees and have water sensitive plants and gardens.

“One of the biggest contributing factors in Perth in recent times has been people buying houses and then getting rid of established trees and gardens to expand the house or sub-divide the property.

“Buying a plot of land and building a house or multiple houses from edge to edge is not a good idea.”