Penrith, Australia

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Monitoring, Maintenance, and Management

How has the initiative been designed and implemented so that long-term needs for management and maintenance are reduced and can be met?

The Cooling the City program is thoughtfully planned and delivered by Council to ensure long term maintenance and management is feasible and realistic.

A key example has been a cultural shift in the way that green infrastructure is managed by Council. In recent years, trees have shifted to being managed as key assets, and included in our asset management system – the same way traditional assets such as footpaths or roads are considered. When trees are planted, they are logged into the asset management system using GIS, including details such as species, size, location and date planted. Street and Park trees planted by contractors, are regularly watered during an establishment period of up to 18 months, and the tree condition is monitored during this work and the data uploaded to Council’s asset management system.

Additionally, high levels of planning and care go into each tree planting project to minimise risks of issues occurring in the medium to longer-term. The first stage is desktop planning, to identify underground and overhead utilities, traffic, and pedestrian safety issues, and even ensuring solar access for north facing properties in winter. The secondary stage is an in-person site assessment, to check for unforeseen factors which may inhibit tree growth, or which the mature tree may interfere with. Only after these steps are undertaken are trees planted.

What protocols are in place to facilitate monitoring of results?

Council has worked to integrate its Cooling the City program across all relevant business units to ensure that urban cooling and climate adaptation is integrated holistically across the organisation and is publicly identified within performance reporting.

All local Council’s within NSW are required to work within the Integrated Planning and Reporting (IP&R) framework, focusing on identifying priorities within the local community and developing actions to deliver positive outcomes. Community engagement through the strategic planning process as well as engagement on Penrith’s resilience to risks, shocks and stresses identified heat as a key risk and priority. The Cooling the City strategy and Resilient Penrith Action Plan have been integrated into the framework including the delivery program, operational plan and business plans. Reporting is a key component of the framework with quarterly, bi-annual and annual reporting requirements on cooling the city actions.

In 2020, Council undertook a review of the Cooling the City strategy to monitor and evaluate progress of the Strategy in achieving its stated goals and outcomes. Council has also integrated and aligned strategies and plans to enhance the ability to monitor and report on actions, with Cooling the city actions integrated into the Resilient Penrith Action Plan.  Cooling the city outcomes have also been aligned through the Green Grid Strategy which priorities future tree planting and green infrastructure projects.

Key greening, cooling and resilience actions have also been included in the General Manager as well as Director/Manager level key performance indicators for further accountability in ensuring monitoring and reporting.

How has the initiative been enhanced in response to monitoring of results?

Council is consistently looking for opportunities to improve the delivery of actions to create a cooler and more liveable city. This involves working with leading researchers and stakeholders. Council’s cooling the city initiatives can provide learnings and be applied across other council projects and/or replicated by other cities. For example:

  • Tree planting health and success rates. As part of the establishment phase of key tree planting projects, the contractor is required to undertake a minimum maintenance period and assess tree health during this period and determine the cause of any problems. This data is shared openly so learnings can be considered in planning subsequent tree planting actions.
  • Heat monitoring. Robust data is essential in making strategic decisions. When first adopted in 2015, the Cooling the City Strategy utilised 2011 aerial surface temperature mapping from the CSIRO. Acknowledging the shortcomings of this data, in the summer of 2019-2020, Council worked with Western Sydney University to undertake extensive heat mapping, measuring real time ambient air temperatures. In doing so, this provides a more practical reflection of heat experience by our community and has enabled Council to prioritise cooling actions.
  • In 2021, Council installed a temporary wildflower garden as part of a broader tree planting project.
  • In 2022, the meadow will be ploughed into the soil to foster improved soil health. Tree planting will follow, and the tree health will be monitored comparative to the usual planting approach. These learnings will be applicable for future Council projects and are replicable elsewhere.