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Cover of the Greater Sydney Region Plan

A Metropolis of Three Cities

Sustainability

A city in its landscape

Potential indicators:
Increased urban tree canopy;
Expanded Greater Sydney Green Grid

Greater Sydney has evolved within outstanding natural and scenic landscapes. As it grows, strategic planning will manage the effects of urban development to protect, restore and enhance these landscapes, waterways, coastline, natural areas, tree canopy and open spaces. Delivering on these outcomes will require careful management of the environmental, social and economic values of the Metropolitan Rural Area and the Protected Natural Area. A healthy natural environment will be important to improve liveability, create healthy places, and mitigate the effects of climate change. New approaches to water management and urban design will be part of the response to climate change and will help to cool the region, particularly the Western Parkland City.

Planning for a sustainable Greater Sydney starts with a city in its landscape. Greater Sydney is one of the world’s most attractive and liveable regions. It has a diverse, beautiful and iconic natural landscape that includes a unique coastline, waterways, mountains, vegetation and a favourable climate.

Planning for sustainability involves taking a long-term approach to managing Greater Sydney’s waterways, biodiversity and bushland, rural lands and its connected green spaces and corridors. It also involves greening streets and neighbourhoods with increased tree canopy cover.

For tens of thousands of years, Aboriginal people have cared for and protected Greater Sydney’s natural landscapes. Today, half of Greater Sydney is protected in national parks and reserves. The natural environment supports biodiversity as well as the economy and enhances residents’ quality of life and wellbeing.

Greater Sydney has four major landscape types (refer to Figure 44):

  • Protected Natural Area
  • Metropolitan Rural Area
  • Urban Area
  • Coast and Harbours.

The Protected Natural Area frames the city to the north, west and south and includes the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, and the coastal sandstone plateaux and estuaries of the Royal National Park – the world’s second oldest national park – and Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

The Metropolitan Rural Area has a diversity of farmland, mineral resources, and distinctive towns and villages in rural and bushland settings. It includes the floodplains of the Hawkesbury- Nepean Valley, and the hills and steep ridgelines of the Wollondilly Shire. There are areas of high biodiversity value including national parks and reserves as well as scenic and cultural landscapes.

The Urban Area includes a mosaic of places from vibrant business districts and industrial areas to quiet neighbourhoods. National parks and reserves, protected waterways and local parks intersperse the Urban Area and are important for local habitat, character and amenity. Within the Urban Area the climate changes from east to west, with less rainfall, hotter summer days and colder winter nights in the Western Parkland City (refer to Figure 43). The steeper and more heavily vegetated landscapes of the northern and north-eastern neighbourhoods contrast with the flatter, more open landscapes of the Cumberland Plain (refer to Figure 50).

Figure 43: Climate variations across Greater Sydney

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Figure 44: Four major landscape types of Greater Sydney
Map showing four major landscape types of Greater Sydney - Protected natural area, Metropolitan rural area, Urban area and Coast and harbours.
Download this image gsrp_figure_44.png (format PNG / 1 MB)

The Coast and Harbours from Broken Bay and Pittwater in the north to Port Hacking in the south are valued and recognised as part of Greater Sydney’s environment, culture and identity, framing the city to the east. Aquatic reserves protect and support the health of aquatic ecosystems. Coastal waterways are important for recreation and tourism (refer to Objective 25).

Across Greater Sydney, past urban development and industrial activities have impacted on natural landscapes and the environment. Even today, waterways are being affected by pollution. These practices, and the continued reliance on fossil fuels for energy and transport are creating environmental problems for future generations.

A sustainable region minimises its use of resources, and its impacts on global systems and climate change. It embraces the principle of capacity building to adapt to future changes. The region can become more sustainable through more costeffective and efficient ways to reduce environmental impacts, reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, reduce waste and increase recycling and re-use. For example in 2015–16, the combined emissions from electricity and gas used in buildings, transport and waste in Greater Sydney contributed 50 million tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, equal to 54 per cent of NSW’s emissions from these sources46 (refer to Figure 45).

Figure 45: Greenhouse gas emissions by source (2015–16)

Download this image gsrp_figure_45.png (format PNG / 23 KB)

Note: Analysis of emissions does not include emissions from agriculture and land clearing

Source: Greater Sydney Commission, 2017, Exploring Net Zero Emissions for Greater Sydney, report prepared by Kinesis for the Greater Sydney Commission

Greater Sydney has the potential to become a leader and innovator in environmental technology and management of energy, water and waste, building on a range of programs and initiatives that promote energy and water efficiency in buildings, the generation and storage of renewable energy and precinct-based approaches to the sustainable use of resources.

Greater Sydney, the nation’s largest city, has an important role in Australia’s response to climate change. The communities within Greater Sydney, with their differing characteristics, require targeted responses to mitigate climate change, focusing on the design of neighbourhoods and managing land use, infrastructure and transport. This could include using renewable energy, reducing consumption of energy and water and reducing waste and greenhouse gas emissions, which would help to deliver a more efficient and sustainable city.

These responses can reduce costs for households and businesses, while contributing to global efforts to combat climate change.

A resilient region reduces its exposure and vulnerability to natural and urban hazards and is more able to withstand shocks and stresses. Planning for the region builds on the NSW Government’s support of the 100 Resilient Cities network of councils across Greater Sydney47.

Greater Sydney is exposed to natural hazards like flooding, bushfires, severe storms and heatwaves. Climate change will exacerbate many natural hazards and increase risks to the community. One of the most significant natural hazards in Greater Sydney is flooding in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley. The largest flood on record in this valley was in 1867, when the river level reached 19.7 metres in Windsor. If a flood of this size occurred in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley today, 12,000 residential properties would be impacted, 90,000 people would need evacuation and damages would cost an estimated $5 billion48.

Urban hazards such as air pollution, noise and soil contamination need to be managed to protect the region’s liveability and sustainability. Exposure to air pollution is influenced by natural air circulation patterns, leading to higher incidents of pollution in the north west and south west of Greater Sydney.

Many sustainability goals are incorporated into existing environmental laws, regulations and government policies and frameworks, including protection of waterways, coastlines and biodiversity, and provisions to reduce pollution and waste. However, these mostly single-issue approaches mean that balancing economic, social and environmental factors in decision-making is challenging. This Plan promotes integrated approaches to deliver sustainable outcomes.

One integrated approach is through planning and delivering green infrastructure. Green infrastructure is the network of green spaces, natural systems and semi-natural systems that support sustainable communities. It has connected elements: waterways; urban bushland; urban tree canopy and green ground cover; parks and open spaces (refer to Figure 46).

Greater Sydney’s Green Grid sets a long-term vision for a network of high quality green areas that will connect communities to green infrastructure. It will promote a healthier urban environment and improve access to spaces for recreation and exercise. Scenic and cultural landscapes and rural landscapes complement green infrastructure.

Figure 46: Connected elements of green infrastructure

Greater Sydney’s environment, and its sustainability, are linked to its liveability and productivity. Several of the Objectives and Strategies in the liveability and productivity chapters of this Plan support more sustainable communities.

For example:

  • Objective 7: Communities are healthy, resilient and socially connected – helps create stronger communities that are less vulnerable to natural and urban hazards;
  • Objective 23: Industrial and urban services land is planned, retained and managed – supports retention of local recycling and waste management facilities;
  • Objective 14: A Metropolis of Three Cities – integrated land use and transport creates walkable and 30-minute cities – helps to lower the region’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Summary of Actions

The following metropolitan-wide Action will deliver sustainability objectives.

12. Develop and implement the South Creek Corridor Plan (refer to Objective 26).

Green infrastructure and greener places

Green infrastructure is fundamental to creating a high quality of life and is important in creating a region that is climate resilient and adaptable to future needs. The NSW Government’s draft green infrastructure policy Greener Places: Establishing an urban green infrastructure policy for New South Wales was produced by the Government Architect NSW to guide the planning, design and delivery of green infrastructure. The draft policy also highlights the role of green roofs and walls, private and semi-private residential gardens and agricultural land that complement green infrastructure and help support more sustainable places.

The draft policy is based on a green infrastructure framework with the following key components:

  • Bushland and Waterways – delivering green infrastructure for habitat and ecological health
  • The Urban Tree Canopy – delivering green infrastructure for climate change adaptation and resilience
  • Parks and Open Space – delivering green infrastructure for people.

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A shady, tree-lines street with bike lan in the City of Sydney LGA.

Urban tree canopy is green infrastructure providing cooler and greener neighbourhoods, clean air and cleaner neighbourhoods (City of Sydney)

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A Metropolis of Three Cities
Chapter: 
Sustainability
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A city supported by infrastructureInfrastructure
A collaborative cityCollaboration
A city for peoplePeople
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A city in its landscapeLandscape
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