In response to the ongoing bush fire crisis, the NSW Government has made amendments to the Local Government (General) Regulation 2005 and State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 to facilitate bush-fire related response and recovery.

Amendments to the Local Government (General) Regulation 2005 (‘Regulations’)

On 24 January 2020, the Regulations were amended to insert ‘Clause 170A – Prescribed expenditure to assist councils with bush fire-related response and recovery’.

The explanatory note to the amendment states the objective of the clause is ‘to prescribe an amount of $500,000 as exempt from the tendering requirements that councils must comply with under the Local Government Act 1993 for contracts entered into for the purpose of bush fire-related response and recovery’.

The amendment only applies to contracts entered into between 17 January 2020 and 1 July 2020 (cl 170A(a) of the Regulations) that are ‘primarily for the purpose of bush fire-related response and recovery’ [our emphasis].

Councils should keep this in mind when considering bush fire-related works in the near future (up until 1 July 2020). The amendment will assist Councils to more efficiently carry out bush fire-related works by saving on time and costs that would usually be required under normal tendering processes under s 55(3)(n)(i) of the Local Government Act 1993.

Amendments to the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (‘SEPP’)

On 31 January 2020, the SEPP was amended in consideration of the ongoing bushfire crisis in NSW.

Subject to the provisions surrounding heritage items and heritage conservation areas, clause 2.25 allows for the:

‘(a) demolition of—

(i) . . .

(ii) a building, the structure of which is significantly damaged by a bush fire,

(b) partial demolition of a building damaged by a bush fire (where the structure of the building in not significantly damaged), only to the extent necessary to make the building safe.’

Further provisions allow for repair works to be carried out to fences, gates or other barrier in accordance with specifications regarding size, location and materials (see cl 2.30AB(d) of the SEPP) and ‘repairs necessary to make the building or structure secure and weatherproof and in the case of a dwelling, safe and suitable for habitation but must not include a repair (other than a temporary repair) to a structural element of the building’ (cl 2.30AB(e) of the SEPP).

Additionally, the use of shipping containers have temporarily been allowed to be installed and used for storage purposes in certain circumstances and in accordance with specific development standards (see cl 2.72A-2.72B of the SEPP).

Councils will need to be aware of these provisions as they and their constituents continue their response, recovery and reconstruction efforts.