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FAQs – Bushfire planning reforms

What are the bushfire planning reforms?

Do the bushfire planning reforms affect me?

What types of buildings are affected by the bushfire planning reforms?

When do the bushfire planning reforms take effect?

What if I have a current development approval or building permit?

Will the bushfire planning reforms affect the natural environment?

What happens to the existing Planning for Bush Fire Protection Guidelines?

FAQs – Bushfire prone areas

What is the Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas?

How do I know if I am in a bushfire prone area?

What if I am in a bushfire prone area, but I don’t think I should be?

What if I am in a bushfire prone area, but property and the surrounding area is clear of vegetation?

FAQs – Planning in bushfire prone areas

What is a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) assessment?

What is a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) Contour Map?

What is a Bushfire Hazard Level (BHL) assessment?

What is a Bushfire Management Plan (BMP) and who can prepare one?

FAQs – Building in bushfire prone areas

Will it cost more to build my new house?

Can I include additional bushfire protection measures into my new house?

FAQs - Bushfire Planning Reforms

What are the bushfire planning reforms?

Bushfire poses a serious threat to people, property, infrastructure and the environment in Western Australia and reducing our vulnerability to bushfire is a collective, whole-of-community responsibility. 

New bushfire land-use planning and development reforms aim to manage and reduce the risk of bushfire across the State.

The bushfire planning reforms require planning and/or building processes for new planning proposals, subdivision applications, and the development of new and other habitable buildings in bushfire prone areas, as shown on the Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas

The bushfire planning reforms only apply to new buildings and development. They are not retrospective so will not affect existing buildings or approved development. 

The bushfire planning reforms include State Planning Policy 3.7 and the Guidelines for Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas, and new bushfire risk management provisions which apply to all local planning schemes through the Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Amendment Regulations 2015.  

Do the bushfire planning reforms affect me?

If you are proposing to build or develop in an area that has been designated as bushfire prone on the Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas then you may have additional bushfire planning and building requirements. 

For example:

  • If you are building a house in a designated bushfire prone area and your property has been designated as bushfire prone by the Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas for more than 4 months you will need to undertake a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) assessment before you can commence development (e.g. your property is located in an area designated as bushfire prone on the 7th December 2015 and development is to commence 4 months later, on or after the 8 April 2016 then a BAL assessment will be required); 
  • If you are proposing to build a house in an area of extreme bushfire risk (i.e BAL-40 or BAL- Flame Zone) and your property has been designated as bushfire prone for more than 4 months you will need to obtain a development approval unless you are building a single house or ancillary dwelling on a lot or lots less than 1,100m2 (in which case you will won’t need a BAL assessment for Planning proposes but may require a BAL assessment for a building permit); or 
  • If you want to subdivide, you will need to provide a BAL Contour Map that illustrates indicative BAL ratings across the entire site with your subdivision application (no transition period applies).

You can find further information about the bushfire planning reforms and if they affect you by using the ‘What do I need to do?’ tool and reading the Planning for Bushfire Prone Areas fact sheets. 

What types of buildings are affected by the bushfire planning reforms

If you are proposing to build a residential building, habitable building or another building as specified by a local government in a designated bushfire prone area then you will likely have additional bushfire planning and/or building requirements. 

For example: 

You can find further information about the bushfire planning reforms, and if they affect you by using the ‘What do I need to do?’ tool and reading the Planning for Bushfire Prone Areas fact sheets. 

You can also find information on building in bushfire prone areas on the Building Commission’s website

When do the bushfire planning reforms take effect?

State Planning Policy 3.7, the Guidelines for Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas, the Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas and the Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Amendment Regulations 2015 are now in effect.

You can find further information in the Planning for Bushfire Prone Areas fact sheet: Interim and transitional arrangements

What if I have a current development approval or building permit?

The bushfire planning reforms only apply to new buildings and development. The bushfire planning reforms will not be applied retrospectively to existing or approved development or buildings. So if you have a current development approval or building permit, even if you haven’t completed the development yet, the bushfire planning reforms will not apply to you. 

Will the bushfire planning reforms affect the natural environment?

Environmental considerations have been incorporated into the development of the bushfire planning reforms and broad-scale clearing of vegetation is not supported as a means of addressing bushfire risk. 

However if you propose to build or develop in a bushfire prone area, you may be required to undertake some vegetation clearing (i.e. fuel loads, fire breaks) on your property to ensure bushfire risk is being appropriately managed. In this situation, the normal application and approval processes for clearing native vegetation will continue to apply.

What happens to the existing Planning for Bush Fire Protection Guidelines?

The bushfire planning reforms including State Planning Policy 3.7 and the Guidelines for Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas replace the existing Planning for Bushfire Protection Guidelines. 

A Shared Responsibility: The Report of the Perth Hills Bushfire February 2011 Review, prepared by Mick Keelty AO APM, made a number of recommendations for the State, local governments and the community to address bushfire risk. 

The designation of bushfire prone areas and the bushfire planning reforms incorporate the recommendations of the review and apply best practice for managing bushfire risk in bushfire prone areas. The bushfire planning reforms will improve planning and development in bushfire prone areas and help to reduce Western Australia’s vulnerability to bushfire. 

FAQs - Bushfire Prone Areas

What is the Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas?

The Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas is a State-wide map that identifies the parts of the State that are bushfire prone (i.e. areas at threat of bushfire because of their proximity to bushfire prone vegetation). 

The Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas has been prepared by the Office of Bushfire Risk Management (OBRM) in accordance with the Mapping Standard for Bush Fire Prone Areas.  

The Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas will be updated annually to take into account changes to vegetation (i.e. vegetation that is cleared or introduced). An updated version of the map will be released in May of each year. 

For further information about the Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas contact OBRM

How do I know if I am in a bushfire prone area?

You can find out if you are in a designated bushfire prone area by looking up your address on the Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas

The Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas is available on the Department of Fire and Emergency Services’ (DFES) website. If any part of your property is shaded ‘pink’ on the map you are within a designated bushfire prone area.

If you are proposing to build or develop and your property has been in a designated bushfire prone area for 4 months or more then you will have additional bushfire planning and/or building requirements. You will be able to find your property’s date of designation on the Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas.

You can find further information about if and how the bushfire planning and building requirements affect you by using the ‘What do I need to do?’ tool and reading Planning for Bushfire Prone Areas fact sheets. 

What if I am in a bushfire prone area, but I don’t think I should be? 

If you are concerned that your property has been incorrectly included in the Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas you should contact your local government. 

The Office of Bushfire Risk Management (OBRM) is responsible for the Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas. OBRM works closely with all local governments in the preparation and review of the map to ensure it is accurate. 

If your property has been incorrectly identified on the map, your local government can work with OBRM to ensure that your land is removed as part of the annual review process. 

Further information is available on the DFES website and reading the Mapping Standard for Bush Fire Prone Areas or by contacting OBRM directly

What if I am in a bushfire prone area, but property and the surrounding area is clear of vegetation? 

If you are proposing to build or develop on a property in a designated bushfire prone area, but there is no vegetation in and around the proposed building site, you may be able to undertake a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) assessment (basic) in place of a BAL assessment. 

A BAL assessment (basic) is a simplified process for determining the BAL for a proposed building that is not within 100 metres of bushfire prone vegetation. You can use a BAL assessment (basic) if: 

  • your property and/or surrounding area has been cleared since the Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas was published so that it no longer contains bushfire prone vegetation, and is not within 100 metres of bushfire prone vegetation; or 
  • your property is large enough to locate the proposed building so that it is not within 100 metres of bushfire prone vegetation.  

You can find further information in the BAL assessment (basic) fact sheet.

FAQs - Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas

What is a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) assessment?

A BAL assessment is used for planning and building purposes to determine whether a building or development requires additional bushfire risk management measures to address the threat of bushfire to the development.

There are six Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) categories, as set out in Australian Standard 3959: Construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas (AS 3959).  

If you are proposing to build or develop in a bushfire prone area as designated on the Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas, then you may be required to undertake a BAL assessment before you can commence development. 

A BAL assessment is generally carried out by an accredited Level 1 BAL Assessor or Bushfire Planning Practitioner. You can find a list of accredited Level 1 BAL Assessors at the Fire Protection Association (FPA) Australia’s website

If you are in a remote area (i.e. your property is located more than 50 kilometres from a gazetted townsite) you may be able to carry out the BAL assessment yourself. For further information refer to Building a house in a remote area fact sheet. 

You can find further information about a BAL assessment, and when one is required for planning purposes by using the ‘What do I need to do?’ tool. 

What is a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) Contour Map?

A Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) Contour Map is a scale map of a development site, including the proposed lot layout, which shows indicative BAL ratings across the site and within the immediate surrounding area. 

A BAL Contour Map is used to identify land suitable for development and areas of unavoidable risk, and ensures that appropriate risk management is incorporated into subdivision design and lot layout. A BAL Contour Map is also used for planning and building purposes to determine whether a building or development requires additional measures to manage the threat of bushfire. 

A BAL Contour Map can be prepared by an accredited Level 2 or Level 3 Bushfire Planning Practitioner. 

If you are proposing to build or develop in a designated bushfire prone area you may be able to use a BAL Contour Map in place of a BAL assessment. Where a BAL Contour Map and accompanying compliance certificate/report exist for your property, you can obtain a copy from the developer of the subdivision or a previous owner. 

You can find further information about a BAL Contour Map in State Planning Policy 3.7 and the Guidelines for Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas

What is a Bushfire Hazard Level (BHL) assessment?

A Bushfire Hazard Level (BHL) assessment is a high-level assessment which determines the potential intensity of a bushfire for a particular area and categorises land as having a low, moderate or extreme bushfire hazard level.

A BHL assessment is used for strategic planning and subdivision purposes to identify land suitable for future development and potential land uses. 

A BHL assessment can be undertaken by an accredited Level 2 or Level 3 Bushfire Planning Practitioner, and may form part of a Bushfire Management Plan (BMP). The Fire Protection Association can provide guidance on suitably qualified consultants offering services in Western Australia. You can find further information at www.fpaa.com.au

You can find further information about BHL assessments in State Planning Policy 3.7 and the Guidelines for Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas

What is a Bushfire Management Plan (BMP) and who can prepare one?

A Bushfire Management Plan (BMP), also known as a Fire Management Plan (FMP), is a plan which identifies the extent of the bushfire hazard to the development. A BMP sets out short, medium and long term bushfire risk management strategies for a particular area. 

A BMP is used to support planning proposals and development applications in bushfire prone areas. It includes consideration of such things as fire breaks, firefighting water supply, firefighting access, easements and ongoing risk management responsibilities. 

A BMP can be undertaken by an accredited Level 2 or Level 3 Bushfire Planning Practitioner. The Fire Protection Association can provide guidance on suitably qualified consultants offering services in Western Australia. You can find further information at www.fpaa.com.au

You can find further information about BMPs in State Planning Policy 3.7 and the Guidelines for Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas

FAQs - Building in Bushfire Prone Areas

Will it cost more to build my new house?

If you are proposing to build or develop in a designated bushfire prone area there may be costs associated with additional bushfire planning and building requirements. 

Further information on building in bushfire prone areas is available on the Building Commission’s website.

Can I include additional bushfire protection measures into my new house?

Yes. 

You can find further information about other bushfire protection measures that may be suitable for your home on the Department of Fire and Emergency Services website at www.dfes.wa.gov.au or by emailing environment@dfes.wa.gov.au

Further information on building in bushfire prone areas is available on the Building Commission’s website

Next: Map of bushfire prone areas