Density done right: NCC calls for housing push to be climate smart, protect and enhance urban ecosystems

Nature Conservation Council
4th March 2024

The Nature Conservation Council of NSW (NCC), the state’s leading environmental advocacy organisation, has today urged the NSW government to match the ambition they have shown in their push for greater density with a clear and unequivocal commitment to climate-smart housing and improved protections for the environment.

“For too long Sydney’s urban sprawl has seen new housing built at the expense of the environment.

“We can’t continue to build on floodplains, koala habitat and Sydney’s green periphery. Nor is it fair or sustainable to force people to rely on privatised motorways for transport” NCC CEO Jacqui Mumford said today.

“We do have a choice between more urban sprawl and densification. We welcome the Minns government’s attempt to address an issue that has been put in the too hard basket for decades.

“This is a genuinely ambitious plan to meet one of the biggest challenges facing our state.

“We would love to be able to tell the environment movement and people across greater Sydney that this plan will meet the needs of nature and millions of people struggling to find an affordable home

“Unfortunately, these reforms do not currently include a plan to protect and enhance biodiversity, better prepare for the impacts of climate change, or provide people with the economic and health benefits that come with household electrification and active transport.

“We call on Minister Scully and Premier Chris Minns to ensure this is density done right, at a minimum instituting the following zero and low-cost requirements as part of the reforms:

  • Enhanced protections for mature trees, as well as a clear pathway to guarantee Sydney reaches its 40% canopy target by 2036

  • Empower local councils to protect urban biodiversity though cat containment

  • Improved active transport infrastructure, including cycle lanes, footpath upgrades and requirements for end of trip facilitates

  • Reduce or remove carpark requirements for dwellings located close to transport hubs, given they are suitable to be car free dwellings.

  • Change planning and strata regulations to guarantee that residents of new apartments can access EV charging and electric heat pumps

  • Incentives through the planning system and pattern book for new buildings that are fully electric and exceed the 7-star minimum energy efficiency rating.

  • Encourage more green space and landscaped areas around dwellings with flexible height to green space ratios.

Statements attributable to Jacqui Mumford, NCC CEO

“Sustainable housing doesn’t just mean building closer to public transport corridors. It means climate smart housing with strong energy efficiency standards, and a commitment to protect and expand wildlife corridors, green spaces and urban canopy.”

“Any changes to the planning system that do not protect and restore our ecosystems, and mitigate the impacts of climate change, will fail to deliver the housing needs of the future.

“It’s also important that local councils are given flexibility, tools and resources to develop localised approaches that meet the important goals of these reforms, and the specific needs of their community.

“Nature and the climate can no longer be peripheral considerations in the planning process, but a primary determinant of what is approved, and what is refused.

“Residents shouldn’t be ‘locked in’ to decades of expensive gas connections, nor should they be forced to pay a premium for a car they don’t have.

“It’s absurd that local councils can’t even prevent cats from roaming around at night and killing wildlife. Unless this provision is removed, the increased numbers of cats that will result from greater density will lead to thousands more native animals being killed.

“Tree canopy has been found to reduce ground temperatures by up to 10 degrees. It’s vital that our existing mature trees are protected if we have any chance of reaching the 40% canopy targets.”

“Urban density must be accompanied by enhancing Sydney’s ecosystems and green space. Green spaces are vital for quality of living, climate preparedness and the many precious and unique flora and fauna that call Sydney home.”

Statement ends

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