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Determining bushfire risk

If you are proposing to build a residential or habitable building in a designated bushfire-prone area, it’s highly likely you will have to address additional bushfire planning and/or building requirements.

Determining risk of bushfire

If you are planning on building a residential or habitable building in a designated bushfire-prone area, how do you determine if the lot you are building on is bushfire prone? 

The Department of Fire & Emergency Services (DFES) Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas is a state-wide map that identifies the parts of the state that are bushfire prone. You can find out if you are in a designated bushfire-prone area by looking up your address on the map. If any part of your property is shaded ‘pink’ on the map you are within a designated bushfire-prone area. 

This map is updated every year on 1 May, but any newly marked areas will not be subject to the bushfire requirements until 1 October in the same year. 

Conducting a Bushfire Attack Level assessment

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 you will need to undertake a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) assessment before you can commence development. 

Since 2016 a BAL Contour Map that illustrates indicative BAL ratings across the entire site has been required as part of all subdivision applications. 

If you are comfortable the Bushfire Contour Map is accurate you can rely on this information in your building application by indicating which ring the building will be located in.

As a guide, an assessment more than 12 months old might need to be looked at again. 

The most accurate bushfire rating will be one done once you have determined the building location. Undertaking the assessment at this time will ensure that the current state of vegetation is captured, including any further clearing that may have occurred. However, there is also the risk that vegetation may have grown and the rating may increase. 

You need to be aware that some Local Development Plans (LDPs) also prescribe site-specific BAL levels. Where this has occurred the BAL can only be changed by gaining a development approval – even if you have had a BAL assessment done that gives a different BAL rating for the site. Where you think there is an inconsistency, it’s best to speak with the planners who developed the LDP and seek their feedback on why that is the case prior to applying for a development approval for change. 

To find out more, contact HIA’s Planning and Environment team.

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