In Western Australia, new Bushfire Risk Management Policies are coming. Draft State Planning Policy 3.7: Planning for Bushfire Risk Management (the Policy) and accompanyingPlanning for Bushfire Risk Management Guidelines (the Guidelines) have been released for public comment, and it is anticipated that they will be implemented by the end of this year. The Policy will form the foundation for land-use planning in addressing bushfire risk management. All developers should be aware of its provisions as planning authorities will begin to expect certain fire protection outcomes on development applications. 

Key Components  

  1. All land in bushfire prone areas subject to a development or planning application will be required to undergo an independent bushfire hazard assessment.
  2. Proponents subject to the Policy will be required to submit a Bushfire Management Plan, to be prepared by an independent fire consultant.
  3. Bush Fire Management Plans will be required to contain a Bushfire Attack Level assessment as prescribed by Australian Standard 3959: Construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas (AS 3959).
  4. Planning authorities will be able to impose development conditions to address bushfire protection issues including title notifications and ongoing bushfire management contributions.

Application

The Policy will apply to new planning proposals and will not be retrospective. It will apply to all areas that have been designated as “bushfire prone” by the Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner or under a legislative instrument. Such areas will be identified either:  

  1. on a local government bushfire map;
  2. on the State Bushfire-Prone Area Map (State Map); or
  3. as any land within 100 metres of an area of bushfire prone vegetation equal or greater than one hectare.

Identifying Risk

The onus will be on owners of bushfire prone land to assess the level of risk through either a bushfire hazard assessment, or in accordance with the Bush Fire Attack Level assessment in AS 3959. Land identified as low risk will not be required to comply with the Policy provisions.

Implementation

Enforcement will be delivered via local planning schemes and amendments. The “precautionary principle” will be applied to all applications which potentially involve bushfire risk, resulting in the refusal of proposed development or intensification where there is insufficient evidence to show that potentially significant adverse impacts can be reduced and managed. The proponent will carry the burden of demonstrating that bushfire risks have been identified and managed where necessary.

Impact on new development

All new developments, will be bound by the highest achievable level of bushfire protection and impacted by the Policy as follows:  

  1. any rezoning or proposed land-use intensification must be assessed against bushfire risk mechanisms;
  2. all proposals in extreme bushfire risk areas will generally not be supported, unless it is considered unavoidable development;
  3. all proposals on land occupied by persons who may be less able to respond to a bushfire emergency in moderate risk areas will generally not be supported;
  4. all proposals on land which use may lead to potential ignition of a bushfire in moderate risk areas will generally not be supported; and
  5. any development within moderate or extreme risk areas may have bushfire protection conditions imposed on its approval.

Response

Public submissions in respect of the Policy and Guidelines must be provided by 4 July 2014 and 1 August 2014 respectively.