Beck Dawson, centre, pictured with ex-Parramatta Lord Mayor Scott Lloyd (left) and Planning Minister Rob Stokes and Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore (right).

Sydney has received its Preliminary Resilience Assessment, delivered as part of the 100 Resilient Cities program spearheaded by Sydney’s chief resilience officer Beck Dawson, with increased demand for health services, diminishing social cohesion and extreme weather events some of the key challenges for the city.

Ms Dawson, who left a position as Investa’s sustainability head to take up the 100 Resilient Cities-funded position at the City of Sydney, said her team had worked with all of Sydney’s metropolitan councils as well as the community, state government, business and academics to develop a strategy to deal with shocks, stresses and vulnerabilities.

“Building resilience starts by identifying our most important problems first and figuring out the best ways to tackle them together,” Ms Dawson said. “For example, solutions that make health care more accessible can also keep our communities safer from crime and better prepared to handle emergencies.”

The assessment details eight short-term shocks and eight long-term stresses that could affect Sydney over the next 10 years and beyond.

Chronic stresses that could cause long-term disruptions are:

  • Increasing demand on health services
  • Diminishing social cohesion
  • Loss of housing affordability
  • Increasing chronic illnesses
  • Lack of transport diversity
  • Insufficient employment diversity
  • Increasing geographic inequity
  • Rise in drug and alcohol abuse

Acute shocks that could cause short-term but significant disruptions are:

  • Extreme weather events – heatwaves, storms, bushfires
  • Failures of large financial institutions
  • Infrastructure failures
  • Disease pandemics
  • Water crisis – too much or too little
  • Digital network failures
  • Cyber attacks
  • Terror attacks

Ms Dawson said that while the acute shocks appeared more disruptive, it was the chronic stresses that were most likely to interfere with Sydney’s liveability.

“The issues raised reflect the changing populations in different parts of our city, with a growing, young population in the west and an ageing population in the north,” she said.

“Key questions include how we provide the health care needs for our future generations. How do we deal with housing affordability in a city with a population that will grow by an additional two million people? And how do we improve social cohesion among 4.5 million people from more than 200 different cultures?”

She said being part of the 100RC program has given Sydney an opportunity to assess the state of play and develop a “united strategy to better deal with the many challenges we will face”.

“Resilience is about a new habit of collaboration.”

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore welcomed the cross-government collaboration.

“Sydney is a major global city, yet as our city grows and its systems become more complex we need to improve how we coordinate across government and the business sector,” Ms Moore said.

“As increasing urbanisation affects cities across the globe, we need to share practical experience and ideas on how to deal with various shocks and stresses that could affect us. I’m really proud to see Sydney’s many metropolitan councils uniting to make resilience a priority.”

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