East Gippsland Shire Council and Heatwaves by Nola Kelly

Excerpts from an article first published in the Great Eastern Mail Dec 1

The people of East Gippsland can be proud to have some very progressive and forward thinking councillors representing them. Recently the council voted to pass a Notice of Motion to seek more information about climate change via a report, and then possibly set up an advisory body to inform their actions… It was considered important that this process would be informed by relevant, publicly available and up-to-date scientific information, and the links to this information be available via Council’s website…

By adopting this Notice of Motion they are showing concern for the people of East Gippsland as well as a desire to assist residents to be properly informed with the latest scientific information. In this way the community will be better prepared to deal with climate change impacts, and less traumatised by them… In April 2020 a community petition was presented to Council asking them to declare a Climate Emergency.

One Councillor has admitted to not having a good knowledge of the science and issues associated with climate change but has stated that it appears to be a matter of both importance and concern for many of the constituents represented, especially young people. This approach, of separating personal opinion from the needs and wants of the community, is to be applauded and shows care and concern as well as a desire to genuinely reflect the electorate. 

One issue that has been brought to the attention of Council, and likely to become very pertinent during the next few months, is the need for an active and up-to-date Council Heatwave Plan, as required as part of Emergency Management. The current plan appears to be somewhat outdated and has no provision for community access to “Cool Zones” or “Hot Day Out Centres”…

Heat is not equitable. Renters and those who cannot afford air-conditioning, or even to run air-conditioning, are the most severely hit. Power outages are also a possibility resulting in widespread heat exposure of people living in specific areas. Small children, the elderly, and those with disabilities or complex medical conditions are very vulnerable to the effects of heat stroke and heat related illnesses… The effects of heat stroke can creep up without warning and can have severe and irreversible results.

The Bureau of Meteorology are predicting severe heat for the summer of 2023-24, and 2023 is likely to be declared the hottest year on record. Modelling shows that days when temperatures reach above 35 degrees Celsius are likely to double in the next 6 years in some places in Gippsland. As temperatures rise due to the changing climatic conditions it is important for all people living in warm climates to be informed, aware, and prepared. In some situations this will mean having a Fire Plan or even a Flood Plan, but everyone needs to have a Heatwave Plan and know where they can go to stay cool during excessive heat if staying at home is no longer an option.

The full article can be read here