Local Government Authority Case Studies

In 2015, the project team completed a desk-top audit of CVC adaptation strategies and plans in all metropolitan local government authorities (LGA) across all Australian States and Territories. The team also reached out to LGA Officers within the metropolitan LGA’s of the four project State’s to conduct a survey of their local authority’s CVC adaptation initiatives.

After reviewing the findings of the audit and survey process against a set of criteria and consultation with the project reference group, two LGA case studies were selected for each project State. The case studies selected are suburban LGA’s and provide a mix of inner and outer suburbs with coastal and inland locations. A brief description of each case is provided below:

NSW: Blacktown and Marrickville

Both LGAs actively embrace climate change adaptation in their strategic outlook, yet each focuses on outcomes particular to their local environment.

Blacktown: Blacktown Climate Change Action and Adaptation Plan (2011)

Blacktown City lies on the western edge of the Sydney metropolitan plain, on relatively flat, exposed terrain. It is one of the largest LGAs in Sydney in terms of area (240 sq. km.) and population (332,424). One third of the population are NESB communities, and the largest industry is manufacturing. The main CVC impacts on Blacktown are heat-related: increases in deterioration of infrastructure, energy demands for cooling, heat-stress/heat-related deaths; longer, more intense heatwaves; and spread of vector–, water– and food–borne disease. Its community-focused Sustainability Workshop series was identified as its most successful CVC initiative. It comprises education and awareness-raising programs focusing on local fauna ecologies, ‘green’ baby care workshops, waste-processing awareness, ‘upcycling’ second-hand goods, community-wide garage sale events, backyard food security, suburban bee-keeping, sustainable kitchen and cooking programs; and urban forestry programs such as tree give-away schemes and adoption of public tree-stock. The council also partners with the local TAFE Outreach college to deliver community courses on horticulture and eco-living.

Only 25 percent of LGAs in the Sydney desktop survey have plans explicitly addressing climate change in terms of adaptation framing and the Blacktown Climate Change Action and Adaptation Plan (Blacktown City 2011) is one of the earliest-adopted of these strategies. It grew out of a risk assessment study based on CSRIO CVC forecasts. Recommendations were developed and prioritised by Council through as series of deliberative community consultation workshops, designed to build consensus around initiatives. Initiatives identified as potentially successful in the survey focus on urban cooling and water-sensitive urban design.

Marrickville: Marrickville Climate Change Action Plan (2015)

Marrickville Council sits in the inner ring of LGAs, south-west of the CBD adjacent to Sydney Airport. Its gently undulating terrain comprises significant river-flat areas along the Cooks River system and Alexandra Canal. It is a medium-sized LGA amongst the inner Sydney group, at 17 sq. km. Of its population (83,356), one quarter are NESB communities and it comprises several progressive, rapidly gentrifying post working-class suburbs. Its largest industry is also manufacturing (.id 2015b). Marrickville Council identifies its main CVC impacts are extreme weather/storm events, heatwaves, increased temperatures and sea-level rise. Initiatives in place focus on flood mitigation and adaptation measures – flood mapping, forecasting sea-level rise impacts, and stormwater infrastructure upgrading. Its Water Sensitive Community Strategy and Urban Forest Strategy were also indentified as successful initiatives in the survey. More recently, the Council has begun thermal and social vulnerability mapping initiatives – the success of these programs is still to play out fully. The Council has strong links to the community-based NGOs working with natural systems in its area, eg. Cooks River Association, Tempe Birdos.

Climate change mitigation and adaptation are significant priorities identified in Marrickville’s Community Strategic Plan. The Marrickville Climate Change Action Plan translates these into vision statement, key results areas, outcome statements, strategies. It also clearly establishes links to related strategies that will affect/be affected by climate change – Biodiversity Strategy, Water Sensitive Community Strategy, Asset Management Plan, Renewable Energy Master Plan, Community Aging Strategy, and spatial planning instruments (local environment plans / development control plans).

A study of Blacktown and Marrickville municipalities offer a productive comparison between inner- and outer-ring LGAs. Both have articulated between mitigation and adaptation approaches in their strategies, and community engagement looks to have been a significant contributor in their formulation. Each focuses on distinctive CVC impacts related to their local environment – marked heat-stress outcomes in Blacktown’s case, sea-level rise and flood impacts in Marrickville’s case. Differences in their socio-economic make-up, population density and physical environment also provide a good opportunity to explore issues around climate justice.

Queensland: Redland and Sunshine Coast

Redland: Confronting Our Climate Future (COCF): Climate and Energy Action Plan (2010-2015)

Confronting our Climate Future (COCF) is the key strategy in place for CVC adaptation in Redland. COCF was prepared ‘in-house’ based on scientific climate change information from consultancies. A risk matrix was used to create the adaptation plan for the Redland area. This Plan combines mitigation, adaptation and energy transition. Emphasis on the impacts of climate change on coastal communities and ecosystems. Partly funded by the Commonwealth Government Local Adaptation Pathways Program. The protection of nature is emphasised in this plan, evident in 47 adaptive responses. The Plan also addresses Community factors, evident in 23 adaptive responses. Adaptation actions in this policy were focused primarily on planning and infrastructure and council asset management. Some elements of climate change adaptation are present in the 2015 corporate plan for this council. Redland’s Community Plan 2030 also cites climate change as a key LGA challenge. A community goal is, “a community prepared for climate change”. Both councils are facing pressures from increased population growth and urban sprawl. Redland faces pressures from the expanding urbanisation of Brisbane City Council. Sunshine Coast is undergoing intense urbanisation as it makes the transition from regional/rural centre to more urbanised land uses. The impacts of climate change on both LGAs are similar. Coastline management is emphasised throughout the CVC adaptation policy of Sunshine Coast and Redland.

Sunshine Coast: SCRC CC and Peak Oil Strategy (2010-2020)

The SCRC CC and Peak Oil Strategy (2010-2020) was prepared ‘in-house’ with University of Sunshine Coast assistance and stakeholder input. The SCRC in 2009/2010 placed an emphasis on producing CVC policy. Policy timeframes are 10- years. Climate change is however omitted from the Sunshine Coast Disaster Risk Management Plan (2014) which may indicate that climate change adaptation is no-longer on the agenda of this council. CVC impacts for this council are predominately coast line oriented (CCPOS; FSMDP; WCMS). CVC impacts on rural areas (drought/flooding) is also provided in the RFS (2011). The protection of nature was emphasised by this plan with 19 related adaptive responses. Council governance responses are emphasised in the above policies (19 adaptive responses). Governance and leadership adaptive actions are emphasised in the above policies.

Victoria: Whitehorse and Darebin

Both LGAs are actively implementing their climate change adaptation plans with dedicated funding from Council budget. CVC adaptation is integrated as part of both Councils’ business plan. However, Whitehorse and Darebin are very different LGA’s in terms of location, demographic and adaptation focus and will provide diverse scope for analysis, particularly in terms of risk framing.

Whitehorse: Climate Change Adaptation Plan 2011: Tackling Climate Change Together

The City of Whitehorse is referred to as Melbourne’s ‘suburban heartland’ and is located 15 kilometres east of Melbourne. The demographic is characterised by households with children (at 43 % of all households). The community is also culturally diverse, with one third of all residents born overseas and one quarter of these from non-English speaking backgrounds. Whitehorse’s adaptation plan was developed around the findings of a Climate Change Risk Assessment and their adaptation efforts are focused on Council assets and operations, and emergency management. Whitehorse’s survey respondent believes Whitehorse is going ‘quite well’ with CVC adaptation and identified the following supportive factors: Support from senior management; Specific funding from Council budget; Good cooperation between departments with no active resistance; and CVC adaptation messages are linked to other things. Key initiatives, driven by the need for adaptation in Whitehorse currently include: a review of some standards and practices to include sustainability as standard, for example in drainage networks and design criteria for roads and building assets. A number of activities are of particular interest to this research, for example: Whitehorse is the first Council to undertake a large scale assessment of their buildings (Regional Alliances and other Councils are very interested); Whitehorse is helping to guide retrofits and future capital works on key buildings; Whitehorse is working with developers and asking for higher ESD standards from developers. Whitehorse is also taking an advocacy role to get adaptation on emergency agency radars. Whitehorse’s focus on emergency response is the result of the Bushfire Royal Commission and linked to the State Government Emergency Response. Whitehorse recognises the need to have effective systems in place to look after the community in emergency situations. In general, Whitehorse’s adaptation actions are comparatively modest but they are tracking well to meet their obligations.

Darebin: Climate Change and Peak Oil Adaptation Plan (2009)
(Currently in review)

The City of Darebin is located 5 kilometres north of Melbourne. Darebin has one of Australia’s most diverse communities with a large number of pensioners (both aged and those with social disadvantage), low income households, and people that are socially isolated and/or disadvantaged. Darebin Council’s adaptation focus is heat stress response and reflects the vulnerable status of many social groups within its community who are unable to afford and access air conditioning or heat stress management options in times of extreme heat. One of Darebin’s key adaptation initiatives is the ‘Solar $aver Program’. This program enables pensioners to install solar power to their homes with no upfront cost and instead pay the system off through their Council rates over 10 years, interest free. Darebin has committed several million dollars from Council budget to the program (including $1 million in 2015), which will continue into 2016. Details of the program are on Darebin’s website.

Western Australia: Fremantle and Stirling

The City of Fremantle has positioned itself well to manage the impacts of climate change with the preparation of its Climate Change Adaptation Plan, designed to sit alongside the Low Carbon City Plan 2011-2015. The coast is at the heart of Fremantle, and thus sea level rise and increased storm intensity is more prominent within the adaptation plan than the City of Stirling. These impacts are presented as a threat to the City’s renowned local heritage, marine environments, local tourism and fishing industries and regionally significant infrastructure. However, alongside other CVC impacts they are framed as an opportunity to develop innovative and resilient solutions. Spatially Fremantle also has a variety of urban and suburban clusters, which in itself presents different opportunities and challenges in climate change adaptation when compared to Stirling, which is characterised by sprawling suburbs. Under the leadership of Mayor Brad Pettit, Fremantle has also actively attempted to position itself as a sustainable local government with campaigns to ban plastic shopping bags and pledges to reduce corporate waste and carbon emissions. There is a perception that the community of Fremantle is also highly engaged and in tune with environmental sustainability. With these factors in mind, Fremantle presents as an ideal case study that would provide an interesting comparative analysis against Stirling, and other LGAs across Australia.

The case studies outlined above are now being pursued for further in-depth study on i) how local authorities frame climate change and adaptation and ii) how this framing influences strategies and initiatives (subsequently) developed as part of strategy implementation.