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Streamlining the Bushfire Rebuild Process (NSW)

July 22, 2020

The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) has commenced a project to help streamline the planning process for those who lost their homes from the 2019-20 bushfires and to assist in the rebuilding process. 

The project includes:

  • Developing BAL mapping for effected areas which will cover most of the dwelling lost, meaning a site specific assessment for a BAL certificate may not be needed.
  • Provide BAL certificates for all other sites where the BAL mapping does not cover.
  • Support BAL ‘Capping’ for certain sites. This means some sites which would normally be BAL-FZ can re-build to BAL-40 so long as certain conditions are met. 

How will the BAL-Capping work?

Wherever possible the RFS will encourage that the new building be built further away from the hazard or that larger Asset Protection Zones (APZs) be included in the development to lower the hazard to BAL-40. 

In circumstances where this cannot be achieved the BAL can be ‘capped’ at BAL-40 providing the following criteria is met:

  • Providing a defendable space to enable access for firefighting around the building
  • Providing access, services and landscaping to aid fire-fighting operations
  • Not being located closer to the bush fire hazard than the previous dwelling footprint
  • Providing improved APZs
  • Providing improved on-site water supplies
  • Providing safe design, installation and maintenance of gas storage and piping systems
  • Providing a bush fire protection management plan and commitment to ongoing maintenance of bush fire protection features; and
  • Committing to and providing a Bush Fire Survival Plan.

Why provide BAL-Capping?

Building to BAL-FZ can cost 25-50% more than a standard dwelling depending on the type and size of the home. Providing this more flexible option may provide some relief for those rebuilding.

What about insurance?

It is not known what impact, if any, this approach could have on insurance premiums. It is recommended that each individual consult with their insurance broker for more information.

Can anyone use this BAL-Capping?

No, only people rebuilding their homes that were lost in the 2019-20 bushfires.

Who approves this?

The RFS is not a Consent Authority so you will need approval from your local council to take advantage of this BAL-Capping. However, councils generally seek the RFS’s advice for any approvals that are in BAL-FZ or BAL-40. So while it is the council that must approve this approach, it will likely done under the guidance of the RFS.

Further Information

For further information regarding this document, please contact the NSW RFS Development Planning and Policy on 1300 NSW RFS (1300 679 737) or email

For HIA’s info sheet on AS 3959 and Planning for Bushfire Protection click here.

For further clarification and information on the changes HIA members can contact HIA’s Building Services team on 1300 650 620 or email