Promoting heat respite at Council offices and Chasing up Moreland’s Heatwave response from October 2014

February 14, 2018 at 4:55 pm Leave a comment

Melbourne Hot days over 35C long term trend

Extreme heat days in Victoria are a rising trend. We need to cut emissions to affect this trend in the long term. But for the short and medium term we need to put in place adequate strategies to build community resilience and climate adaptation to heatwaves and rising temperatures.

Climate Action Moreland Convenor John Englart met with the Mayor and Deputy Mayor following up Moreland’s heatwave response and a past Council decision from October 2014, to ensure Council policies and decisions are being adhered to.

We had an extreme heat day on January 18 and I raised in a discussion on twitter that nominally Moreland Council had a policy of promoting their public offices and Council Libraries for heat respite and a cool drink during opening hours, though it appears this hasn’t been happening to the extent envisaged. This was based on an October 2014 motion by Moreland Council.

In practice this effort appears to have largely slipped off the institutional radar.

Moreland Council did respond on twitter and said they have an institutional framework response. I have no doubt this is an important response to extreme heat, but I do not think it is all that Council has decided to do.

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I organised to meet with the Deputy Mayor, Cr Natalie Abboud, when she was back on duty after January. Read the full discussion thread here.

The meeting took place on Friday 9th February and was also attended by Mayor Cr John Kavanagh. Initially I was going to pursue point 4 and 5 of the motion (below), but it made me wonder how much of the rest of the motion was acted upon.

4. Promote key community facilities as cool venues for respite from the heat during normal operating hours.
5. Ensure access to drinking water at key community facilities during heatwave periods.

We are actually after action from Moreland Council on two timeframes:

  1. Short term and Immediate: what staff need to do to implement the heatwave response plan taking into account all decisions (including points 4 & 5 above) in the next several weeks if there is an extreme heat event
  2. Longer term: such as ensuring the heatwave response plan, and any associated policy or strategy such as the Drinking Fountain Strategy, and all checklists, are kept up to date and staff know what is needed to implement them.

A quick check of the Council Policies and Strategies page found no mention of a Public Drinking Fountain Strategy. Had this been developed? If so, What was it’s current status?.

I was suspicious that there may be a governance issue here as the Urban Forest Strategy that was approved by Council in 2017, also was not listed on this webpage. (Note: I raised this issue during the meeting, and this has now been addressed with a summary document uploaded in the last week). In terms of governance, I think it reasonable to expect publication, once a policy or strategy is adopted by council, in a reasonable period of time. At least list the policy initially unlinked so that the public know it is a new policy that will be added.

I talked with Natalie Abboud how sometimes decisions sometimes just drop off the radar in an institution. Hence, the importance of following up on the October 2014 motion.

We agreed that follow up was needed:

  • on the “know your neighbour” campaign as a means to build community resilience to heatwave (and other emergencies)
  • on whether adequate measures are being taken to track and identify vulnerable people in their homes who are at high risk of being affected by extreme heat events so Council staff or other authorities can can check in with them during these events? John Kavanagh offered to raise this with Police area commander Brian Matthews to find out ways the local police check in with people. Nominally under emergency management in Victoria the police have crisis command during an extreme heat event.
  • to discover What were the results of the trial assessment of the capacity of HACC clients in coping with heatwaves and were Moreland Council involved in creating further strategies to support this group?
  • to find out what happened with The Drinking Fountain Strategy. Was this ever developed? What is it’s present status.? Associated with this I suggested Council should promote the “choose tap” app from Yarra Valley Water.
  • to discuss what response from State Government regarding its emergency planning measures for when the temperature reaches the heat health threshold for three days in a row?
  • when the Heatwave Co-ordination Group last met to review Council’s Heatwave response plan, and what was the assessment of this group.

As a result of my email requesting a meeting, Moreland CEO, Nerina De Lorenzo, had also been consulting with her staff how best to promote heat respite in various Council offices and Libraries in the municipality. A-frame chalk boards were seen as highly problematic and producing accessibility issues, and were therefore discounted from use. However the use of promotional signs for heat respite and drinking water were identified and will be used in future extreme heat events around the municipality. An undertaking was given that the other items from the October 2014 Council resolution will also be followed up.

One of Climate Action Moreland’s objectives is to ensure our local government, which overall is taking a very pro-active leadership role for climate action and adaptation, is ensuring public health and safety by necessary public heat health warnings and climate adaptation policies.

While issues sometimes slip off the institutional radar, it highlights the importance of our group, indeed any community group, and the essential role they play as a community watchdog.

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Entry filed under: climate change info, heatwave, Moreland Council.

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