Resilient Sydney

Resilient Sydney

Sydney's resilience story

Metropolitan Sydney is one of the most diverse cities in the world with a population of close to 5 million people from 200 vibrant cultures. Our global city is known for the beauty of its natural environment and outdoor lifestyle, but it is struggling to maintain liveability and equity during a time of growth and change.

Sydneysiders are experiencing a range of chronic stresses such as lack of affordable housing and transport congestion, and need to be prepared for shock events such as heatwaves, storms and cyber-attacks.

To become connected, inclusive and resilient is a challenge every organisation and community in metropolitan Sydney must address to create a place of opportunity and wellbeing for everyone.

Resilient Sydney – A strategy for city resilience 2018 is the first of its kind for our city, marking a new spirit of collaboration and connection in Sydney.

The strategy is the result of 2 years of effort including technical studies and a comprehensive engagement process with more than 1,000 people from business, government and communities (residents) across metropolitan Sydney. Every council in the metropolitan area has been engaged.

These inputs are reflected in the strategy and we sincerely thank every individual and organisation who took part in this process.


Resilient Sydney Office

Strategic directions and flagship actions

Resilient Sydney – A strategy for city resilience 2018 is a 5 year plan with 5 directions and flagship actions. There are 35 actions overall.

Our vision for Sydney as a metropolis that is connected, inclusive and resilient.

Direction 1: People centred

Sydney is growing, inequity is rising and infrastructure and services lag behind. Not everyone shares the benefits of prosperity from a growing economy. To be resilient we need to include communities in the decision making that shapes their lives. By doing so Sydneysiders can connect to where they live and access transport, affordable housing, education and employment.

Flagship action: Shocks and stresses managed through planning for growth.

Integrated decision making must address community stresses while ensuring infrastructure and services meet local needs.

Councils are adopting a resilience approach in their community strategic planning processes and operational plans. Engaging communities across Sydney in these issues will support integrated planning for resilience in economic development, employment opportunities, education, integrated transport, infrastructure, services and technology.

Milestone: To incorporate Sydney’s resilience challenges and directions in local government community plans by 2020.

Direction 2: Live with our climate

Sydney’s climate is changing: sea levels are rising and heatwaves, droughts and bushfires are becoming more frequent and intense. To be more resilient we must adapt to these changes to ensure our communities are safe and comfortable, while safeguarding our economy and environment.

Flagship action: Cool suburbs – turn down the heat.

Extreme heat affects all our communities, with those in western Sydney experiencing the most significant impacts.

This action will connect individuals and organisations managing the impacts of extreme heat to build a consistent understanding and approach to the challenge in western Sydney. The ‘cool suburbs’ initiative will use the latest in data sensing, materials science, built environment planning and performance monitoring to develop a ‘cool score’ for new and existing suburbs.

Milestone: Publish the cool suburbs strategy and action plan with targets to reduce temperatures, improve canopy cover, reduce morbidity and mortality, and monitor economic impacts of extreme heat in 3 years.

Direction 3: Connect for strength

Communities in Sydney are diverse and cohesive but intolerance and inequity are rising. This undermines the wellbeing and vital connections Sydneysiders need to manage everyday stresses and respond to shock events. To be resilient every Sydneysider needs a sense of belonging and equal access to engage in society, the economy and all the city has to offer.

Flagship action: Monitor metropolitan social cohesion and wellbeing.

We need a coordinated approach to understand how to effectively support and invest in social cohesion and wellbeing.

This action will connect government, business, academia, social services and communities to share and explore the range of social cohesion indicators currently used across our city. These include measures of community connectedness, levels of trust and wellbeing. This will allow consistent monitoring and reporting of social cohesion and wellbeing across metropolitan Sydney.

Milestone: Standards for city wide monitoring and reporting of social cohesion aligned to the Scanlon Foundation annual survey of capital cities.

Direction 4: Get ready

Like other cities, Sydney relies on networks of infrastructure and essential services to provide food, energy, water, transport and waste management. These assets and services are connected to one another. When disruptions occur there can be serious knock-on effects across city systems. As these systems become more complex it is crucial each organisation understands these connections and their role in managing risks. This is true for everybody in our city, and it is vital communities understand how to prepare themselves and their networks for shock events.

Flagship action: Get prepared – 100,000 ready Sydneysiders.

The Red Cross and IAG have developed a free app called Get Prepared to help communities prepare for emergencies.

The app helps people prepare physically and psychologically for disaster. An easy, user-friendly process helps them establish a network of emergency contacts, review the risks relevant to where they live and create checklists of actions to undertake. The app also links users with emergency services and provides them with an emergency plan that can be printed and shared with others. Resilient Sydney will promote the app to councils and businesses to share with residents and customers to encourage them to download and prepare.

Milestone: 100,000 app downloads by the 3rd year.

Direction 5: One city

Sydney is not governed as a single city – 3 layers of government share overlapping responsibilities for supporting our community, economy and environment. Disjointed governance makes integrated decision making difficult. To be resilient governing organisations need to build their capacity to understand and manage vulnerabilities, interdependencies and risks.

Flagship action: Engage 100 organisations in the Sydney Resilience Commitment.

Government, business, academic and community organisations must commit to supporting implementation of this strategy.

By taking this commitment organisations will ensure safety and continuity for their customers, employees and local communities during shock events. They will increase their understanding of risks, clarify their role in managing these risks, include communities in decision making, engage in training and capacity building and take collaborative action to address our challenges.

Milestone: 100 organisations make a commitment by 2021.

We invite you to view the strategy, including the background technical studies and engagement reports that underpin it.


Background – Resilient Sydney

In 2015 Sydney won a place in the 100 Resilient Cities initiative pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation to help cities become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges of the 21st century. Sydney receives resources and technical support to develop a resilience strategy for the metropolitan area.

Resilient Sydney is a collaboration with all the councils of metropolitan Sydney, the NSW Government, business and the community. Every council in metropolitan Sydney has nominated a resilience ambassador to support the program and ensure their part of the city is represented and engaged. A steering committee is established including representatives from each of the planning districts of metropolitan Sydney, NSW Government, business and the community sector.

What is resilience?

100 Resilient Cities describes urban resilience as the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses and systems within a city to survive, adapt and thrive no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.

Chronic stresses weaken the fabric of a city on a day-to-day or cyclical basis. Examples include ongoing issues such as rising inequity, lack of social cohesion and inadequate public transport.

Acute shocks are sudden, sharp events that threaten a city. Examples include heatwaves, floods, disease outbreaks and cyber-attacks.

Improving the systems and networks that make up a city will increase our resilience overall. Resilient systems withstand, respond to and adapt more readily to shocks and stresses. They emerge stronger after tough times and live better in good times.

100 Resilient Cities has developed the city resilience framework to provide a lens to understand the complexity of city systems and the drivers that contribute to their resilience.

Developing the strategy

The strategy was developed in 3 phases:

  1. Preliminary resilience assessment – research and engagement to evaluate the strengths, vulnerabilities and risks for our city and identify the key main challenges we face. We invite you to view the assessment and detailed city context study.
  2. Strategy development – broad engagement across metropolitan Sydney to identify solutions and actions to address the challenges. We invite you to view our engagement reports and strategy.
  3. Implementation – investment, policy and practical actions to build resilience across systems in metropolitan Sydney.

Last updated: Thursday, 30 January 2020