The Shire and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services have rules and regulations governing development and construction inside bushfire-prone areas.

Bushfire prone areas

The Fire and Emergency Commissioner has declared parts of the Shire as being ‘bushfire prone’, in accordance with the Fire and Emergency Services Act 1998. These areas can be viewed DFES website. See Bushfire Prone Areas Map.

Please also refer to the information sheet below.

Requirements for habitable buildings

All habitable buildings in a bushfire prone area, including residential and tourist accommodation buildings, are required to comply with Australian Standard AS3959-2009. This includes Class 1, 2 and 3 buildings and associated Class 10a buildings and decks. 

The intent of the bushfire prone declaration is to improve the level of protection of life and property from bushfire by ensuring that all new buildings are sited and/or constructed to a standard that will reduce the risk of ignition from any bushfire that may occur in the area. 

The standard of construction is dependent on the assessed level of a building’s potential exposure to ember attack, radiant heat and direct flame contact. This is expressed as a Building Attack Level or ‘BAL’ – see below. 

Bushfire attack levels

BAL
Description
BAL-LOW
The risk is considered to be VERY LOW. There is insufficient risk to warrant any specific construction requirements, but there is still some risk.
BAL-12.5

The risk is considered to be LOW. There is a risk of ember attack. 

The construction elements are expected to be exposed to a heat flux not greater than 12.5kW/m2.

BAL-19

The risk is considered to be MODERATE. There is a risk of ember attack and burning debris ignited by wind-borne embers and a likelihood of exposure to radiant heat.

The construction elements are expected to be exposed to a heat flux not greater than 19kW/m2. 

BAL-29

The risk is considered to be HIGH. There is an increased risk of ember attack and burning debris ignited by wind-borne embers and a likelihood of exposure to an increased level of radiant heat. 

The construction elements are expected to be exposed to a heat flux not greater than 29kW/m2.

BAL-40

The risk is considered to be VERY HIGH. There is a much-increased risk of ember attack and burning debris ignited by wind-borne embers, a likelihood of exposure to a high level of radiant heat and some likelihood of direct exposure to flames from the fire front.

The construction elements are expected to be exposed to a heat flux not greater than 40kW/m2.

BAL-Flame Zone (FZ)

The risk is considered to be EXTREME. There is an extremely high risk of ember attack and burning debris ignited by wind-borne embers and a likelihood of exposure to an extreme level of radiant heat and direct exposure to flames from the fire front. 

The construction elements are expected to be exposed to a heat flux greater than 40kW/m2.

Assessment of buildings

All new habitable buildings located within a bushfire prone area are required to be assessed. 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

BAL assessment (basic)

The Department of Planning has prepared a fact sheet on Preparing a BAL Assessment (Basic) Report.

A registered building surveyor will need to be satisfied that the BAL assessment (basic) is correct before signing the relevant certificate of compliance for the building. 

Where buildings are assessed as BAL ‘Low’, there are no specific construction requirements under the standard. Where a building is assessed as having a BAL above ‘Low’, the building will need to meet the construction requirements of AS3959. These construction requirements range from prevention of ember attack to withstanding a high heat flux and burning debris. 

The application of AS3959 is not retrospective, and while it will not affect existing dwellings, all owners are encouraged to review options available to them to provide the best possible protection during a bush fire event. Dwelling extensions and renovations may be subject to the standard. Such proposals should be discussed with a Shire building surveyor to determine requirements. 

Building permits and planning approval

Any development classified as having a BAL of 40 or FZ must obtain planning approval in addition to a building permit, with the exception of single dwellings and ancillary dwellings on lots smaller than 1100m2. 

For information on the planning and building requirements associated with a new development, please contact the Shire on (08) 9780 5291 or email [email protected].

BAL contour maps

A BAL contour map is a scale map of the lot illustrating the potential radiant heat impacts and associated indicative BAL ratings.

For more information refer to State Planning Policy 3.7: Building in bushfire prone areas.

A BAL contour map is prepared by a minimum level 2 practitioner. The Shire's Planning Team will advise you when a BAL contour map is required for your development.

Bushfire management plans

A bushfire management plan is a specially prepared plan for your site that sets out the bushfire risk management strategies for your proposal. 

Bushfire management plans are required to be prepared under State Planning Policy 3.7:  Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas, depending on the type of development. 

A bushfire management plan is prepared by a level 2 -3 accredited Bushfire Planning Practitioner, in accordance with the State Government’s Guidelines. 

The Shire's Planning Team will advise you when a bushfire management plan is required for your development as well as the level of accreditation of the practitioner.

Refer to the information sheet below for more information.


Management of fuel loads around dwellings

The Shire has requirements for the management of fuel loads around dwellings under its annual Firebreak and Fuel Hazard Reduction Notice. Some lots will be subject to individual bushfire management plans. 

Compliance with these requirements, which include a Building Separation Zone of minimum 20m around all dwellings, is mandatory and may also reduce the BAL of proposed buildings. 

For more information, go to Firebreak Notice and Requirements or contact the Shire’s Planning Services Team on (08) 9780 5220 to discuss your property.

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