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Call to repave Rundle Mall (again) to combat climate change

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Seven years after the Adelaide City Council replaced Rundle Mall’s patchy pavers with slick granite, it is being advised to again rip up the paving and install “cooler materials” to help combat the effects of climate change.

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Forty-four years ago today, then Premier Don Dunstan arrived in a horse and cart to a crowd of about 10,000 people gathered around a champagne-flowing fountain to mark the official opening of Rundle Mall.

It followed a $782,000 repaving job involving 580,000 bricks and the closure of Rundle Mall to traffic, making it Australia’s first pedestrianised main street.

Since then, the Mall has undergone several face-lifts, most recently in 2013, when the council spent about $30 million replacing trees, installing new lighting and outdoor seating, and ripping up the old 44-milimetre-thick pavers and replacing them with 80 millimetre-thick granite.

Some of the new pavers – widely-criticised by the public and councillors as being too slippery and “cheap” when they were unveiled – were ripped up just a year later for the belated installation of underground electrical cabling to power the Mall’s lights.

Tonight, on the 44th anniversary of Rundle Mall’s opening, the city council will consider a report calling for yet another repaving job to ensure the retail strip remains at a comfortable temperature for shoppers during heatwaves.

The “Climate Change Risk and Governance Assessment” report, which cost the council and Local Government Association $24,000 to commission, is described as “one of the most comprehensive assessments of climate risk currently undertaken for a South Australian council”.

It highlights the climate change “risks” to the city council’s assets, operations and services to determine where the council needs to invest in the future.

Report author Edge Environment and Climate Planning identified 283 risks in total, over three-quarters of which were associated with forecasted average temperature increases and changing rainfall patterns linked to the impacts of climate change.

Of the 13 risks identified for Rundle Mall by 2090, one “extreme” risk is the impact of more frequent heatwaves, which Edge Environment and Climate Planning said could lead to reduced sales.

Already the number of days reaching over 40 degrees in Adelaide has more than doubled in the past 10 years, with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting maximum daily temperatures for South Australia will rise by between 1 and 2.1 degrees by 2050.

According to the council’s report, installing more shade and water fountains in the Mall is “not considered adequate to manage this risk in the long term” and other measures, such as changing the ground surface, could mitigate the impact.

It states that there is an “increased risk of people experiencing heat stress or heat stroke in exposed areas of the Mall”, which could, in turn, cause a “liability risk caused by shoppers claiming that Council (is) not providing safe facilities”.

“Therefore, additional adaptation actions such as a shift (in) trading hours to accommodate heat impacts, provision of continuous shade in the Mall, changing the ground surface to cooler materials and increasing other cooling options were all identified to reduce the impacts of this risk,” the report states.

Rundle Mall in the 1970s. Photo: City of Adelaide

Rundle Mall before its 2013 revamp. Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily

Rundle Mall today. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Other recommendations outlined in the report include installing misters, cooling fans and drinking fountains in the Mall.

The report states that failing to adopt the recommendations could make Rundle Mall “less attractive as a shopping precinct compared with covered suburban shopping malls”.

“The financial ramifications for Council may include increased pressure to undertake unplanned capital expenditure to cool Rundle Mall,” it states.

“Without this expenditure, there may also be financial exposure due to businesses moving to a different location (affecting rateable income and/or rental income streams).”

To address the findings of the report, city council staff have proposed developing a new “climate change adaptation action plan” – estimated to cost $35,000.

The plan would be developed by a “cross-program steering group” this financial year.

City councillors will discuss the report tonight before voting to formally note it at a meeting next Tuesday.

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