Development in Bushfire Prone Areas

Guidelines for Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas

Large areas of the Shire are prone to bushfires due to the terrain, vegetation and climate.

The Guidelines for Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas contain requirements and recommendations for all kinds of development in bushfire prone areas.

Generally, new subdivision and development in bushfire prone areas should be avoided to minimise the risk of harm to future residents, emergency services workers and public infrastructure.

Many parts of the Shire are gazetted as bushfire prone areas in Local Planning Scheme No. 4 (LPS4) and the State Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas. These are mapped in Special Control Areas which overlay, but do not replace, the zones and reserves. Specific rules for bushfire hazard areas are found in Part 6 of LPS4. All new houses and extensions in the bushfire prone areas require planning approval.

Applications for planning approval in bushfire prone areas will require additional plans and information about the existing fire risk and measures to reduce the risk.

There are provisions in the Guidelines for assessing bushfire attack levels, criteria for acceptable development, and information on bushfire management plans.

Access the guidelines below.

WAPC: Guidelines for Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas

Choosing a Bushfire Practitioner

The Shire of Mundaring requires that any Bushfire Management Statement (BMS) or Bushfire Management Plan (BMP) be prepared by a level 2 or level 3 Bushfire Practitioner (consultant). Fire Protection Australia (BPAD) are the accrediting body recognised by the Western Australian government and maintain a register on their website.

Access the accredited practitioner registered below.

BPAD: Accredited Practitioner Register 

Choosing your building location

Buildings should generally be located in existing cleared areas, towards the front of a property, and at least 20m away from dense vegetation. Larger properties should have a turning area that would allow a fire truck to turn around.

The area within 20m of a habitable building should be managed to minimise the direct fire risk to that building. This 20m wide low fuel area is called the Asset Protection Zone or APZ. This area does not need to be totally cleared and can include native vegetation as well as fruit trees, vegetable gardens and other less flammable plants. 

Find out more about Asset Protection Zones

Clearing of native vegetation

Most clearing of native vegetation requires planning approval, but you do not need planning approval to remove trees or vegetation within 20m of an existing house unless it would impact on a watercourse (dams, rivers or creeks).

Find out more about approval for clearing or developing land.

Classifying the Bushfire Attack Level (BAL)

Applications for planning approval in bushfire prone areas are required to include a bushfire hazard assessment. For most development, this will be in the form of a BAL report and either a Bushfire Management Statement or a Bushfire Management Plan.

The BAL is a measurement of the building’s potential exposure to ember attack, radiant heat and direct flame contact.

The method to determine the BAL is detailed in Australian Standard AS3959. The BAL needs to be determined by a qualified and experienced BAL assessor.

Determining a BAL requires that land and vegetation within 100m of the proposed building are assessed.

The vegetation type and slope of land are categorised – note that fire travels significantly faster up slopes. The slope and vegetation together are used to calculate a BAL for the building or particular parts of the building.

Because the BAL is based on the terrain and vegetation within 100m of the building location, the BAL may be different on different parts of a property. Locating a new building or extending an existing building in a safer area (with a lower BAL) will reduce the construction requirements.

The Guidelines recommend against siting residential development in a BAL-FZ or BAL-40 zone.

Building in Accordance with AS3959

Standards Australia has published the Australian Standard 3959 for construction of buildings in bushfire prone areas.

New houses or accommodation in bushfire hazard areas will be required to be built in accordance with relevant provisions of AS3959.

This Standard details building measures that improve the likelihood of the house and any occupants surviving a bushfire, including:

  • External walls of non-combustible materials such as brick, stone, rammed earth
  • Roof tiles, roof sheets and roof covering accessories of non-combustible material
  • Vents in external walls screened with corrosion resistant metal mesh
  • External doors, windows and frames of non-combustible or low risk materials, or fitted with ember screens or bushfire shutters.

The Australian Standard is a licenced document so the Shire cannot distribute copies, however you may request it from the library or your builder may already have a copy.

Demonstrating how bushfire risk will be managed

Applications for development within the bushfire prone areas need to include either a Bushfire Management Statement or Bushfire Management Plan. Single residential developments will not usually require a comprehensive Bushfire Management Plan.

Bushfire Management Plans (BMP)

Applications for large or high risk developments will require a Bushfire Management Plan to comprehensively assess the bushfire risk and demonstrate that it can be reduced.

These Bushfire Management Plans should be prepared by qualified and experienced consultants, based on the requirements of the Guidelines.

If a Bushfire Management Plan cannot adequately reduce the risk, or involves too much clearing of native vegetation, a development may not be approved.

Preparing a Bushfire Management Statement (BMS)

A Bushfire Management Statement would be required for residential development such as a house or granny flat, or a home business with employees, guests or clients staying on site. This will identify ongoing measures to reduce the risk to residents and visitors.

While the accompanying assessment and report needs to take into account surrounding land, the statement itself can only include actions to be undertaken on the subject property. These should be summarised on a single A3 page property plan (see example below), which is stamped as part of the planning approval and has effect under the Shire’s Firebreak and Fuel Load Notice.

Bushfire Management Statement - Example of A3 Property Management Plan (PDF)

Appendix Four of the Guidelines lists ‘acceptable solutions’ and performance criteria for development in bushfire prone areas. The report should include a detailed assessment of how the proposal complies with the requirements of the Guidelines. The summary page will include a table that lists the relevant criteria and describes how the development will comply.

Proposals should meet the acceptable solutions where possible. Where this cannot be achieved then it would be assessed against these criteria:

  • P1 – Development located in an area where the bushfire hazard level is moderate and the risk can be managed.
  • P2 – Design, construction standards, landscaping, paths and roads minimise the risk to people, property and infrastructure.
  • P3 – Roads, emergency access routes and private driveways provide safe access and egress (including two escape routes) for emergency and other vehicles
  • P4 – Development provided with a permanent and secure water supply that is sufficient for firefighting purposes (scheme water and pressure is not reliable in bushfires).

The assessment should result in a property plan that shows the buildings and water tanks and identifies firebreaks, driveways and turning areas.

The plan should also show how the Asset Protection Zone and the rest of the property will be managed. On larger lots, vegetation can be divided into cells for fuel reduction (e.g. burning off a different area each year to balance fuel reduction against impacts on wildlife).

More information and contact

For enquiries please contact Planning Services on 9290 6740 or email shire@mundaring.wa.gov.au (attention Planning).