Bushfire Planning Reform 2015

Information on the land use planning requirements if you are planning to develop in a designated bushfire prone area within Western Australia.

Overview

In 2015, the State Government announced a package of reforms to help protect lives and property against the threat of bushfires throughout Western Australia.  

Reforms were introduced to set out new requirements for people intending to develop and/or build in bushfire prone areas, including the need to assess a property’s bushfire risk and take additional construction measures to limit the impact of bushfires.

Information provided here can help you understand how these changes may affect you and any development you may be considering. 

They provide important information on the land use planning requirements if you are planning to develop in a designated bushfire prone area within Western Australia. These designated areas are identified on the map of bush fire prone areas.

summary for local governments has been prepared.

Do these changes affect me?

Bushfire planning requirements apply to all new planning proposals for habitable buildings (e.g. house, restaurant, office, etc.) or specified buildings in areas designated as bushfire prone on the Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas (unless exemptions apply). You can identify your property on the Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas by visiting the DFES website. If your property is located within a bushfire prone area according to this map then you may need to undertake a bushfire attack level (BAL) assessment.  A four-month transition period applies from when your property is designated as being bushfire prone. 

Who is exempt?

If you are building a single house on a lot/s less than 1,100m2 you will not require a BAL assessment for planning, even if your house is going be built in a designated bushfire prone area. However, the building permit approval process may still require a BAL assessment or BAL Contour Map. For further information on building permits please visit the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety's website or contact your local government. 

If you are located in an area where a local planning scheme does not apply then you will also be exempt from undertaking a BAL assessment. 

There may be limited circumstances where the Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas identifies a property as being within a bushfire prone area but the property is no longer within 100 metres of bushfire prone vegetation (that would trigger such a designation). This may be for example where the land has been cleared to create new residential lots since the Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas was designated.  

When is planning approval required?

Development currently requiring planning approval will continue to do so. In addition any habitable building (e.g. house, restaurant, office, etc) or specified building with a BAL rating of BAL-40 or BAL-Flame Zone will require a development application seeking planning approval, even if they would normally be exempt under a separate section of the Local Planning Scheme Regulations.  

Who can prepare a BAL assessment?

It is strongly recommended that you use an accredited Level 1 BAL Assessor or an accredited Bushfire Planning Practitioner to undertake a BAL assessment, or an accredited Bushfire Planning Practitioner to prepare a BAL Contour Map.  The Fire Protection Association (FPA) Australia (FPA) is the recognised accrediting body in Western Australia and they can assist you in finding a professional. See www.fpaa.com.au.

Special arrangements exist in remote locations. See fact sheet: Building a house in a remote area.

Frequently asked questions

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. 

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.

The bushfire planning reforms include State Planning Policy 3.7 and the Guidelines for Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas, and 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; 
  • 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).

 

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, by reading the Planning for Bushfire Prone Areas fact sheets. 

You can also find information on building in bushfire prone areas on the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety website

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.

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).  

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 by 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.

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. 

 

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 a BAL Contour Map 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 a BAL Contour Map in State Planning Policy 3.7 and the Guidelines for Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas

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 Department of Mines, Indusrty Regulation and Safety'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 Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety's website.

Useful contacts

Planning Policy Framework and LPS Amendment Regulations

Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage
Bushfire Policy Team
Gordon Stephenson House, 140 William Street, Perth, Western Australia
Ph: (08) 6551 9000
Email: bushfire@dplh.wa.gov.au

Site specific planning and development enquiries

Please contact your local government.

Local government directory

Accreditation and Training Framework for bushfire consultants

Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage
Bushfire Policy Team
Gordon Stephenson House
140 William Street
Perth, Western Australia
Ph: (08) 6551 9000
Email: bushfire@dplh.wa.gov.au

Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas

Office of Bushfire Risk Management
Ph: (08) 6551 4060
Email: OBRM@dfes.wa.gov.au
Website

Building Regulations and application of AS 3959 building construction standards

Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (Building and Energy Division)
Level 1 - Mason Bird Building
303 Sevenoaks Street
Cannington, Western Australia 6107
Ph: 1300 48 90 99
Email: BCinfo@dmirs.wa.gov.au
Website

Or please contact your local government.

Page last reviewed 31 July 2019
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