Property sustainability expert Beck Dawson has been named Sydney’s chief resilience officer, a high-profile position enabled through the Rockerfeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Network tasked with preparing the city for environmental, economic and social shocks.
The position, appointed by the City of Sydney after a long search, is Australia’s second to be announced following Melbourne, and involves developing a resilience strategy for the Sydney metropolitan area, creating a conversation around Sydney’s resilience challenges and partnering with stakeholders – including all levels of government – to coordinate responses.
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Ms Dawson is well-known to The Fifth Estate through her role as general manager for corporate sustainability at Investa, and its work with the Better Buildings Partnership, and was even cover model for our final chapter of our Tenants and Landlords Guide to Happiness.
Ms Dawson, flanked by Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes and Parramatta Lord Mayor Scott Lloyd, said she was “absolutely delighted” to be taking on the role and wanted to achieve a “coordinated, proactive approach” to tackling Sydney’s resilience issues.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to play a pivotal role in future-proofing Sydney against events like April’s impactful flood or Victoria’s heatwaves in 2009,” she said.
“It’s also an opportunity to build resilience to the ongoing stresses that our city faces, such as housing affordability, transport and inequity.”
She said her background in long-term planning and investment in the natural and urban built environments prepared her to lead the conversation about developing a resilience strategy, “in terms of understanding how to communicating complex ideas, making them accessible and interesting, and making sure we can then produce strategies that help identify those key priorities we’re then going to work on together”.
Ms Dawson also referenced her experience of being in London during the terror attacks of 2005, which she said gave her first-hand experience of witnessing a city in crisis and had drawn her to working in the area.
“There’s no substitute to being prepared, being forewarned and knowing your neighbours,” she said.
Mr Stokes said the City of Sydney had made “a very wise appointment” in Ms Dawson, and praised her “strong background in the property sector”, as well as her understanding of architecture, urban design and the key resilience issues the city needed to address.
He said the costs of extreme weather events were set to cost $23 billion a year but that savings of up to $12.2 billion a year could be made “if we make sensible investments in preventative infrastructure”.
Mr Stokes said the issues Ms Dawson faced were not easy – they were cross-sectoral, multi-dimensional and across all sorts of council and government boundaries.
“A key part of [the role] is joining up the thinking about how we can be more flexible in our approaches to dealing with these problems across boundaries,” he said.
“This important initiative is a demonstration of how we can work together in the interests of our communities, and our region to effectively respond to climate change.”
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said Ms Dawson’s role was now of the utmost importance due to inaction at other levels of government.
“Tackling climate change is the most significant issue of our time, and after decades of inaction it’s now vital that cities like Sydney are fully prepared for the onslaught of global warming,” she said.