Bendigo is one of Victoria’s more vulnerable council areas to the effect of heat according to research from initiative 202020 Vision.
The city rates 1.5 on 202020 Vision’s vulnerability scale, making it one of the places most in need of urban greening in Victoria.
The research rated vulnerability by measuring maximum temperatures, whether people in the area can cope with prolonged and increased heat and whether an area is losing, gaining or maintaining its green space.
Bendigo is predicted to lose 44 percent of all its city trees over the next 10 years as European trees reach the end of their natural lifespan.
At the same time average temperatures in the Loddon Mallee are expected to rise by as much as 1.3 degrees by 2020.
Urban forest specialist Meg Caffin recently completed an analysis of heat vulnerability in central Victoria which showed Kangaroo Flat, White Hills, Eaglehawk, Long Gully and North Bendigo were particularly at risk.
Ms Caffin said that as longer periods of hot weather became more common certain people in the community were more vulnerable to heat related illness. These included older people, young children and those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged.
“In central and northern Victoria particularly it’s become more of a concern because those days of prolonged heat are becoming more and more common,” Ms Caffin said.
“We’re finding that our suburbs aren’t actually equipped to deal with that heat.”
Her research found that areas of low socioeconomic status were generally more vulnerable to heat because of a combination of lower quality building materials and fewer trees.
These lower quality materials absorb heat, radiating it out at night, creating an hot pockets in built up areas.
This prolonged exposure to lower temperatures which caused heat stress, heat fatigue, and could lead to illness and death.
During the recent hot weather Bendigo’s emergency department reported a spike in patients presenting with heat related illness.
City of Greater Bendigo urban forester Tania MacLeod said the council aimed to retain existing green spaces and ramp up tree planting.
Ms McLeod said the greening strategy was driven by Bendigo’s need to maintain a high degree of livability as the climate changed, creating a warmer, drier environment.
How to beat the heat?
What’s the trick to cool down our city? Plant more trees say Bendigo Sustainability Group.
Member Chris Weir has urged both individuals and the City of Greater Bendigo to mitigate the effects of heat by greening up their domain.
If there’s no heat cover, heat sinks into surfaces, Mr Weir said. Planting trees simply means there’s more shade blocking the heat.
Solar panels can have the same effect. Mr Weir has noticed a three degree drop in the temperature of his living room since installing solar panels on the roof above.
Home alteration is a bit trickier for renters, but Mr Weir had some simple suggestions. A shade cloth attached to the gutter could do valuable work shielding bricks so they don’t absorb the heat of the sun.
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