Suburbs in the leafy northern end of Sydney have been billed as the harbour city’s healthiest places to live, writes Domain. Thirty two suburbs received five-star ratings in the Domain Healthy Sydney study, the majority of which were located between the lower north’s Wollstonecraft and the northern suburb of Berowra Heights, and include – among others – Mount Kuring-Gai, Berowra Heights, Pennant Hills, Wahroonga, Hornsby, Turramurra, North Epping, Macquarie Park, Warriewood, and Warrawee.
The study looked at 10 factors that either helped or hindered the healthy lifestyle of residents including proximity to hospitals and bed availability, as well as density of fast food and liquor stores. Other indicators of a healthy suburb were the scale of tree cover, open space, walkability and volunteering, which was adopted as a metric for social connectivity as a determinant of mental health.
Local and State governments have the power to create many more healthy suburbs with five-star ratings. Another relatively simple exercise is to allow the community to safely and conveniently walk to carry out day to day activities. This means building not just more footpaths and pedestrian crossings, but also freeing up the planning system to allow more services and facilities, such as shops, close to where people live.
There is no escaping the fact that the north shore had more advantaged suburbs because they were well-located, well-serviced and well-planned. The study focused on place-based factors that influence health, rather than the health of the residents, but the correlation is clear. The area in Australia with the highest life expectancy is the larger geographical area of North Sydney and Hornsby. It’s got a life expectancy three to four years above the average Australian.
It is critical that housing development is being coupled with public infrastructure including health and transport, to avoid affecting a suburb’s health and its residents. But they also need access to the natural environment, so we need to make room for open space so people can walk and interact with their neighbours, and also enjoy the sights and sounds and smells of nature in the city.
The report highlights a major benefit or Pennant Hills and surrounding areas for its residents, and the Trust believes we need to do all we can to keep this advantage ahead of Sydney – through appropriate state-of-the-art planning controls, preservation of our precious natural environment, and a focus on sufficient supporting infrastructure, open space, and human powered transport.