Climate Change

Climate Change

Climate Change is a significant issue for Australian communities. Even with international action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the global climate is projected to undergo significant change, creating both risks to communities and the environment as well as opportunities to improve our processes, behaviours and technologies.

Key changes in climate likely to influence the HCCREMS region and potential impacts associated with these include:

  • Sea Level Rise – flooding & inundation of low lying coastal areas, coastal recession & erosion, asset damage, loss of coastal and estuarine ecosystems
  • Increases in average and extreme temperatures – human and livestock health, changes to bushfire behaviour and seasonality, increased building operational costs and asset deterioration
  • Extreme rainfall, flooding and storms – flash floods and catchment flooding, increased need for emergency response and recovery, damage to infrastructure, buildings and facilities, community anxiety, damage to natural assets
  • Rainfall and water availability – fluctuations in water supply for drinking, irrigation and industrial use, as well as more pronounced flooding and drying cycles.

Key initiatives delivered through the HCCREMS Climate Change Program to date include:

  • Research to identify historic climate variability and projected changes in the region’s climate
  • Completing a spatial assessment of the potential impacts of climate change across the region
  • Coordinating development of local and regional (Rural & Coastal) climate change risk assessment and adaptation plans by councils
  • Developing a Decision Support Framework and Guide to support consistent, transparent and objectives based decision making by councils for coastal adaptation planning
  • Collating and analysing spatial information datasets (representing population, environmental and natural hazards) to identify the location and relative vulnerability of communities to natural disasters.
  • Social research exploring the level of awareness and preparedness of `at risk’ communities to climate induced natural disasters
  • Developing a Heatwave Planning Template to support councils, health and community service organisations work collaboratively to build community resilience to this increasingly frequent and severe climate risk

The HCCREMS team has played a significant role in building awareness of climate change risk and defining and responding to these at both regional and local scales.

New Disaster Resilience Initiatives

New Disaster Resilience Initiatives

Two funding applications submitted to the NSW State Emergency Management Projects (SEMP) program and Community Resilience Innovation Program (CRIP) have been successful. These projects will directly support Councils and Community Service Organisations be better prepared for natural disasters and include:

Integrating Natural Disaster Preparedness into Local Government Operations through the Integrated Planning and Reporting (IP&R) Framework – The Disaster Ready Councils Initiative

 This project recognises the significant opportunity for local government to build the resilience of their local communities to natural disasters, by integrating resilience planning across the range of core functions and services they provide (e.g. land use planning, community development and support, infrastructure management, community education, communications, environmental management and local emergency management). The project will:

  • Raise awareness in Councils across NSW of the opportunities for building organisational and community resilience to natural disasters across their organisational functions and operations
  • Directly build the capacity and resources available to councils to assist them integrate disaster resilience across their operations via the Integrated Planning and Reporting (IP&R) Framework.

 Project Activities will include:

  1. Five regional forums across New South Wales (Hunter, Coffs Harbour, Queanbeyan, Wagga and Dubbo), focusing on the importance and opportunities for integrating disaster preparedness within and across Council operations
  2. Development of a “summary” guideline identifying key focus areas, opportunities and actions for incorporating disaster preparedness into council operations via the IP&R Framework. Target areas will include: Engaged, Informed and Prepared Communities; Planning and Development; People and Places; Environmental Management; Infrastructure; Representing Community Interests; Business Continuity; and Local Emergency Management Planning.
  3. Delivery of five technical workshops in the Hunter region. These will directly inform the development of guidelines focusing on how “all hazard preparedness” can be practically integrated via the IP&R framework into and across different council functions and services.
  4. Five regional forums (Hunter, Coffs Harbour, Queanbeyan, Wagga and Dubbo) to communicate and provide training on the application of final project outputs. Project Partners include the 11 Councils of the Hunter, Central Coast and Mid Coast region of NSW, Australian Red Cross, Local Government NSW and the Hunter Central Coast Interagency Disaster Resilience Group

To find out if your Council is Disaster Ready, view our Factsheet and Checklist.

Six Steps to Resilience for Community Organisations across the Hunter Region

Community Service Organisations (CSO’s) play a critical role in supporting vulnerable people and communities during disasters, particularly with recovery efforts. Strengthening the disaster resilience of these organisations thereby strengthens the resilience of the community as a whole. The importance of this role is being increasingly recognised; however CSOs are often not well prepared for it. As a result they may be unable to provide core services to their clients and communities at times when they are most needed. A key mechanism to prevent such disruption is to have a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) in place. The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) has developed the “6 Steps to Resilience” framework which is designed to guide CSOs through the process of developing a BCP. This project will:

  1. Raise awareness and capacity within CSOs (focusing on members of Council Interagency Networks) of the importance of BCPs to ensure service continuity during disasters
  2. Provide direct support to CSOs, via a collaborative workshop process, to complete BCPs for their organisation using the “6 Steps to Resilience” framework.
  3. Formally evaluate the effectiveness of the “6 Steps” process in assisting a diverse spectrum of CSO types develop BCPs
  4. Update the “6 steps to Resilience” Facilitation Guide to reflect the outcomes of the evaluation process.

Project Activities will include:

  1. Four sub regional forums (Mid Coast, Lower Hunter, Upper Hunter and Central Coast) to raise awareness within CSOs of the impacts disasters may have on their ability to continue providing services
  2. Twelve professionally facilitated workshops (3 within each of the sub regions) to directly support CSOs complete the “6 steps” process within a collaborative workshop environment, and to ensure that by the end of the project they have successfully completed a BCP
  3. Compilation of an “All Hazards” Preparedness Resource Kit bringing together existing community engagement / education and Business Continuity Planning resources developed in recent years.

Project Partners include the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS), 11 Councils of the Hunter, Central Coast and Mid Coast Region, NSW Police, Samaritans Foundation, Hunter New England Local Health District, NSW State Emergency Service and Hunter Central Coast Interagency Disaster Resilience Group.


Building Heatwave Resilience Project

Building Heatwave Resilience Project

The frequency and intensity of heatwaves in Australia is increasing, with the length, extent and severity of current heatwaves unprecedented in recorded meteorological history. Climate change modelling also identifies that this trend will continue, meaning more frequent, hotter and longer lasting heatwaves.

With heatwaves already killing more Australians than any other natural disasters (Commonwealth of Australia, 2011), this trend is expected to only increase the number of heat-related illnesses and deaths occurring in Australia, particularly within more vulnerable or `at risk’ communities including:

  • The elderly
  • The very young
  • People with a disability
  • Indigenous communities
  • Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities
  • Low income households
  • Outdoor workers
  • The socially isolated
  • Those with existing medical conditions

Heatwaves also have significant and costly impacts on key infrastructure, with power and transport services most severely affected. Resulting power outages and service disruptions further compound impacts on the community. The need to actively consider, plan and build community and infrastructure resilience to heatwaves is being increasingly recognised at all levels of government, by infrastructure providers, emergency response authorities, health care and community service organisations.

Heatwaves have significant and costly impacts on key infrastructure, with power and transport services most severely affected.


HCCREMS IS now working in partnership with the Hunter New England and Central Coast Health Districts, the Australian Red Cross and member Councils to deliver the Regional Heatwave Resilience project. This seeks to build resilience to heatwaves through:

  1. Building awareness and capacity within Councils, stakeholder organisations and the community of:
    • Current and projected trends in heatwaves
    • The nature and significance of heatwave impacts on community health and infrastructure
    • Roles, responsibilities and management strategies for building heatwave resilience
  2. Collaboratively identifying and piloting strategies to build organisational and community heatwave resilience
  3. Designing and piloting a consistent heatwave communication campaign across the region.
  4. Developing a region wide Heatwave Planning template to provide ongoing guidance and support for those involved in heatwave resilience initiatives.

The project is funded by the NSW Government under the Community Resilience Innovation Program.


Communication Resources


Beat the Heat

The Hunter region recently experienced its hottest summer (2016/17) on record. Member Councils have been actively using the regional “Beat the Heat” communication resources to raise the awareness and preparedness of their local communities and staff to the extreme temperature conditions that were experienced. Examples include:

Table of Council Actions during the 2016/2017 Summer


a Heat




In June 2015 four sub regional forums were delivered to raise awareness of the very real and significant impacts of heatwaves, and to identify priorities and practical actions for reducing these. The forums brought together key individuals and organisations central to building community heatwave preparedness including
NSW government agencies involved in climate research and adaptation, public health and community support services.

Copies of the presentations are provided in our Resource Library.

Historic Variability & Projected Climate Change

Historic Variability & Projected Climate Change


The climate of the region is well known for its variability and extremes, both geographically and over time. Because of this variability, it is unlikely that the effects of climate change will be uniform. Rather, it is likely that future changes in weather patterns driven by climate change will vary in their nature and impact.

In recognition of this, innovative research was completed in 2010 for HCCREMS by the University of Newcastle and Macquarie University. This identified both historic and projected changes in climate for the region, for a range of climate variables including rainfall, temperature (minimum, maximum and average annual), humidity, pan evaporation, water balance, wind, sea level rise and extreme sea levels, wave climate and extreme events. Historic and projected change in respect to each of these is provided at both sub regional and seasonal scales. Climate Impact Case studies have also been prepared to demonstrate how the research outputs can be applied at an industry / issue level scale to identify and adapt to change.




Case Studies

Community Attitudes to Climate Change, Heatwaves & Disaster Resilience

Community Attitudes to Climate Change, Heatwaves & Disaster Resilience

HCCREMS, in partnership with Lake Macquarie, Wyong and Gosford Councils and the University of Newcastle undertook social research on both short and long term effects on individuals, families and communities from extreme climate events and associated natural disasters. The research seeks to build the preparedness of `at risk’ communities to natural disasters. The project was funded through the Natural Disaster Resilience Program, Auxiliary Disaster Resilience Scheme – a joint initiative of the NSW and Commonwealth Governments.

The project developed a number of recommendations on how to effectively communicate with the various ‘at risk’ communities to increase their preparedness and response to extreme climatic events.

The project used detailed spatial analysis to identify geographical localities where communities are relatively more vulnerable to natural disasters and extreme climate events. Focus groups were then held in these localities for those community members considered most vulnerable, including low income families with young children and other low income earners, aged populations, people with a disability and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities. Analysis of the discussions held reveals that, consistent with the international literature for these local communities, risk of both short and long term adverse outcomes post natural disaster is exacerbated by the combination of exposure and vulnerability.

The project developed a number of recommendations on how to effectively communicate with the various ‘at risk’ communities to increase their preparedness and response to extreme climatic events.

A copy of the final project report can be found in our Resource Library.