Helen Papathanasiou

Helen Papathanasiou was a star attraction at our Tomorrowland event in 2019 sharing innovative and what we thought was pretty daring sustainable work at the City of Parramatta well in advance of other jurisdictions, as we saw it.

In subsequent articles we covered more ground breaking work from Sydney’s so called “second city” initiated in the main by Papathanasiou.

Parramatta shoots ahead of the curve with new sustainability planning goals

Now after 10 years with the council this one woman powerhouse has decided to spread her wings and seek wider and even more impactful ways to influence the agenda in the 10 critical years we have left to curb global warming, as she put it. 

Her new gig, still waiting to be inked, is with a major city council but it’s structured in a way that she packs almost a full time job into part of the week and leaves the rest open for other opportunities. She called this departure part of the Great Resignation we’ve been reading about, where people have used Covid to reassess the value and context of their work and wonder if they can improve on the impact they have.

It makes sense. When skilled people build up a lot of experience and know-how there’s a certain view that this comes with a sense of obligation to ensure the learnings are amplified or “given back” to society. And the furious concentration of attention on Glasgow and our urgent climate issues is falling directly into that field of attention.

At Parramatta Papathanasiou managed some significant achievements, not that being manager, environmental outcomes, city strategy was an open invitation to do any kind of work she wanted.

Key to success, she said in a telephone conversation on Tuesday is collaboration – understanding how to bring your colleagues, peers and stakeholders along for the journey. 

In a farewell note initiated by colleagues, she listed 10 achievements she’s most happy with:

  1. Led a city-scale recycled water infrastructure by securing (to date) recycled water piping to 430,000 square metres of new commercial development, 4000 apartments and over 1300 hotel rooms across Greater Parramatta to Olympic Peninsula
  2. Drove new and innovative land use planning sustainability requirements in the Parramatta CBD, lifting building energy performance by 25 per cent and water by 40 per cent
  3. Designed and executed a bold new vision and strategic partnership across eight local councils and three state government agencies to make the Parramatta River Sydney’s new swimming destination, accelerating water-based recreation opportunities for over 750,000 people
  4. Oversaw the development and launch of Parramatta’s first flood warning system, collaborating with five state and national government agencies, securing over 1250 community sign-ups to date
  5. Initiated the development of Parramatta’s first Walking Strategy ensuring that all the City’s forecast 487,000 residents live within a five minute walk of a major transport connection
  6. Advocated to launch Western Sydney’s longest walk, The Great West Walk, over 65 kilometres connecting Parramatta to the Blue Mountains
  7. Being awarded the prestigious Local Sustainability Award in 2018 by Local Government NSW for the City of Parramatta’s first Environmental Sustainability Strategy, driving bold new goals and actions for the community and organisation
  1. Leading and collaborating to deliver high performance business outcomes:
  • 5 Parramatta Square: a 6-star Green Star Building and Parramatta Square Precinct  (projected) 6-star Green Star Communities
  • Parramatta Aquatic and Leisure Centre – 17.5 per cent improvement on BAU energy performance and 30 per cent peak energy load reduction
  • Large scale asset upgrade – over a period of 6 years securing a total of $6.5 million to lead and upgrade 75 per cent of the City of Parramatta’s streetlights to LEDs and smart technology, saving Council a projected $14 million and reducing carbon emissions by over 80,000 tCO2-e.
  1. Launched the re-opening of Lake Parramatta to swimming after 72 years of closure, making it one of the top two “things to do” in Parramatta, according to Tripadvisor, and attracting over 80,000 visitors in the first four years.
  1. Drove industry-leading Western Sydney urban heat island mapping, research, partnerships, and strategy, identifying actions to reduce local temperatures by up to 5°C and improve community heatwave preparedness.

Watch for more news to come that continues this work.

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