Frequently Asked Questions
Bush Fire Prone land
What is bush fire prone land?
Bush fire prone land is an area of land that can support a bush fire or is likely to be subject to bush fire attack. A bush fire prone area is an area mapped for a local government area that identifies the vegetation types and associated buffer zones. Bush fire prone land maps are prepared by local councils and certified by the Commissioner of the NSW RFS.
How do I find out whether or not my land is in a bush fire prone area?
Bush fire prone land maps for all local government areas are to be made available for inspection at Council offices. You can also check if you live on bush fire prone land by using the online tool.
Additionally, Section 149 Certificates (a certificate that identifies relevant town planning factors that apply to a parcel of land) issued by local councils should identify whether or not the land for which the Certificate is issued is in a bush fire prone area.
Where can I obtain a bush fire prone land map for our council area?
Copies can be requested from the customer services counter at your local council. Some councils may have the map available on their website or in an electronic format.
What do the colours mean on the map?
There are 4 colours on the BFPL map. Three of the colours represent different types of vegetation and one colour represents the buffer from the vegetation. For example, forests with a lot of eucalypt trees are considered to be a high hazard for bush fires and so are usually coloured red, which is Category 1. Land that is covered with grass is considered to be a medium hazard and is coloured orange which is Category 3. Rainforests and smaller areas of vegetation that are considered to be a low hazard are coloured a light orange which is Category 2. The buffer can be either 100 metres from the vegetation or 30 metres depending on the classification of the vegetation. The most important thing to understand is that if either the mapped vegetation or the buffer intersects your property, the property is considered to be bush fire prone.
Whose responsibility is it to review or update the bush fire prone area map for our Council area?
It is the council's responsibility to review their bush fire prone land map at regular intervals. Councils must review their map under the legislation once every five years but can make amendments to the map at anytime. Any amendments or updates are to be submitted to NSW Rural Fire Service for certification.
Can I build on bush fire prone land?
If you are proposing to build a residential dwelling or do renovations to an existing dwelling that requires council consent and the property has been mapped as bush fire prone, you must meet the requirements of Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006. Planning for Bush fire Protection 2006 requires certain protective measures be met in order to make a building less susceptible to damage or destruction from bush fires.
If the sighting and nature of the building being proposed does not comply with Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006, the consent authority (councils) needs to refer the application to the NSW Rural Fire Service for advice.
It is not the intention of the measures to prevent the development of land in bush fire prone areas. However, in order to provide adequate protection from bush fires, it may be necessary to modify the style, construction material or sighting of a building.
Are there construction requirements for building on BFPL? Can I do Complying Development if my land is Bush Fire Prone?
Yes, if there is any future development to the property on Bush Fire Prone Land, then that development must meet the requirements of Planning for Bush Fire Protection (PBP). PBP requires certain building construction levels to be met so that the building will be less likely to burn down or be damaged by bush fires.
Which construction requirements will be required for BFPL?
Complying development is a fast track approval process for straight forward residential, commercial and industrial development. Providing the application meets specific criteria then it can be determined by council or an accredited certifier without the need for a full Development Application.
As of 2011, Complying development was included in the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (the Codes SEPP), making it easier to assess against specified development requirements and development standards which are outlined in the Codes SEPP. This means significant time and cost savings for home owners and small business while still maintaining a rigorous assessment system for managing bush fire risk.
Complying development on low risk bush fire prone land has development requirements and standards that are in the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008. Complying development which is low risk i.e. BAL Low, 12.5.19 or 29 can have an application submitted to council or an accredited certifier for assessment. To be considered as complying development you need to obtain a BAL Risk Assessment Certificate which confirms that a complying development is not BAL 40 or BAL FZ.
Complying development is not allowed on high risk Bush Fire Prone Land (BFPL) that is BAL 40 or FZ. Instead it must be assessed through the Development Application (DA) process by lodging a DA through council. For more information on planning and building see the NSW Planning and Environment portal at www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au
If I want to sell my existing dwelling, will its sale be affected by the legislation or by being identified as bush fire prone?
There will be no restriction placed upon the sale or purchase of a property. However, the Section 149 Certificate issued by the council should identify the property as being in a bush fire prone area. As a consequence, future alterations, renovations or additions to the property will be subject to the current planning provisions.
What is the process for assessing an application on bush fire prone land?
The process for assessing and determining a complying development certificate on bush fire prone land is outlined in the table below:
What should be taken into consideration when plans are being prepared for a development on bush fire prone land?
The home owner and/or the building designer should obtain all relevant information relating to the property before designing new works. This could save time and money later in the process by avoiding the need for expensive changes to the plans.
A s.149 certificate can be obtained from local council which will provide any relevant or necessary information outlining whether the property is bush fire prone.
If the property is on land that is bush fire prone, the NSW RFS recommends that a bush fire risk certificate be obtained from a 'suitably qualified consultant' to determine the BAL for the land on which the development is proposed. The endorsement of the BAL by a 'suitably qualified consultant' can also be used to satisfy the requirement of a complying development certificate on bush fire prone land.
Once the BAL is identified, the building designer can ensure work is designed to comply with AS 3959-2009 Construction of buildings in bush fire prone land and all other relevant development standards contained in the Codes SEPP.
What is a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL)?
A Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) is used to determine the level of potential bush fire attack on a property. Bush fire attack is considered to be potential flame contact, ember attack or radiant heat exposure that may affect a building and damage or destroy it during a bush fire. Building to the correct BAL measure can help a building to potentially survive a bush fire and provide better protection for human life.
What is a BAL used for?
It is used to determine the appropriate level of construction required relative to the potential bush fire attack. As part of any application for new works on bush fire prone land bush fire will need to be addressed. A bush fire assessment will need to be undertaken for your property and to satisfy council’s requirements.
Why is it important to have the BAL determined by the council or a suitably qualified consultant?
BAL, or Bushfire Attack Level, is a measure used to determine the category of potential bush fire attack on a property. The methodology for determining the BAL is outlined in Planning for Bushfire Protection 2006 which is accessible on the Rural Fire Service website.
Determining the BAL ensures that development is undertaken in such a way that risk to people and property is minimised. It is a requirement that a person who has suitable qualifications and experience undertakes the assessment. This could be either the local council or a person identified as being a 'suitably qualified consultant' as well as the NSW Rural Fire Service for the first 12 months of the operation of this policy.
Will the NSW RFS do site inspections to help me determine my BAL?
No. Not before you put in any Development Application to council. If the application is for a single home an owner can determine the BAL themselves by using the Guidelines for Single Dwelling Development Application kit. You can also speak to a Bush Fire Consultant (The Fire Protection Association of Australia maintains a list of accredited consultants www.fpaa.com.au ) who can assist with more difficult applications.
Does the NSW RFS know the BAL for my property?
No. The NSW RFS does not hold any data for the Bush Fire Attack Levels (BAL) of any property in NSW. The Bushfire Attack Level needs to be calculated on individual site circumstances at the time at which development consent is being sought.
The Bush Fire Prone Land Map tool will help you to determine if your property is in a Bush Fire Prone Land area.
Once you have determined if your property is Bush Fire Prone you can then use the Guidelines for Single Dwelling Development Applications Kit to help determine your Bush Fire Attack Level (BAL).
Alternatively, a Bush Fire Consultant will also assist with determining your BAL level. See the Fire Protection Association of Australia at www.fpaa.com.au
What are the construction requirements for each BAL?
Australian Standard 3959-2009 Construction of Buildings in Bush Fire Prone Areas (AS3959-2009) contains the construction requirements for each BAL. A copy of AS3959-2009 can be obtained from Australian Standards, Council or a local library may also have a copy.
How do I get at BAL Risk Assessment Certificate?
The NSW Rural Fire Service no longer issues a BAL Risk Assessment Certificate. It is used to confirm that a BAL rating is below BAL- FZ or BAL -40 in the Complying Development process. The certificate can be issued by local councils or a Fire Protection Association of Australia (FPAA) accredited consultant www.fpaa.com.au
What is the difference between a Bush Fire Risk Assessment Certificate and a BAL Risk Assessment Certificate?
A Bush Fire Risk Assessment Certificate is issued by either council or a bush fire planning consultant and is used to confirm that a proposed development conforms to the specifications and requirements of the NSW RFS document Planning for Bush Fire Protection. The Bush Fire Risk Assessment Certificate is used in the full development application process.
A BAL Risk Assessment Certificate will confirm whether your BAL rating is below BAL-40 or BAL-FZ and determines if your proposed development will be able to proceed as complying development under the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (the Codes SEPP).
Can the NSW RFS assess bush fire risk for complying development?
Yes, but only as a transitional measure for the first 12 months of the operation of this policy. In this period, councils or private accredited certifiers will be able to refer complying development certificates to the NSW RFS for endorsement of the bush fire risk category. The NSW RFS will endorse the category of risk for the purpose of finalising a determination in the same way as a 'suitably qualified consultant' would.
Why is the NSW RFS only involved for 12 months?
The purpose of the transitional period is to allow councils, certifiers and 'suitably qualified consultants' to become familiar with their responsibilities. After the 12 month period expires, councils and accredited certifiers will not be able to refer complying development certificate to the NSW RFS to assess bush fire risk.
Once a complying development certificate is approved on bush fire prone land, are there any further requirements?
Yes. Once a complying development certificate has been issued by either the local council or an accredited certifier, all relevant information is required to be referred to the NSW RFS for their records. The NSW RFS will record this information for the purposes of:
- undertaking audits of certificates for the purposes of maintaining quality in the assessment process
- strategic planning for activities such as hazard reduction and compiling details to assist in operational fire fighting.
Who is a 'suitably qualified consultant'?
Suitably qualified consultants will be identified on a list prepared by the NSW RFS. For the purpose of undertaking a bush fire risk assessment, a suitably qualified consultant means someone who is a member of a recognised organisation and has suitable experience, education, qualifications and indemnity insurance to undertake the work competently. The NSW RFS has established criteria for people who wish to be included on the list.
What are the key changes from PBP 2001
Introduction of Performance and Acceptable solutions
The main change incorporated into the revised edition is an emphasis on the performance based approach to development in bush fire prone areas through focussing on community safety outcomes rather than simply meeting prescriptive requirements.
The new document allows for considerable flexibility and innovation while incorporating appropriate bush fire protection measures. The NSW RFS will consider alternative solutions where the applicant demonstrates that their solution meets the performance of Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006. The onus is on the applicant to demonstrate this to the NSW RFS.
Revised Site Assessment Methodology
Vegetation classes have been reviewed, specific fire weather across the State has been introduced and the models used in calculating asset protection zones have been refined, which leads to more accurate assessment. Asset protection zone distances have been calculated to the nearest metre and due to the revised site assessment methodology and site specific calculations, many of the APZ requirements are reduced.
Bush Fire Protection Measures
Bush fire protection measures (BPMs) have been introduced to simplify the various measures that need to be incorporated into development in bush fire prone areas to mitigate the impact of bush fires. Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006 promotes detailed site analysis and the application of a combination of BPMs to achieve an acceptable outcome.
Provision of Information – Reports
Is it mandatory for me to include an assessment of the bush fire risk in my development application?
While it may be a requirement of individual councils it is not a requirement for every application. Your local Council and the NSW Rural Fire Service will provide you with information and guidelines relating to your particular property and what measures need to be taken to enable your development to proceed. Assessment may be made, however, if an assessment can not be completed you will be asked for further information.
Appendix 4 of Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006 outlines the submission requirements of development applications on bush fire prone land. In addition, the NSW RFS has provided Applicants Kits to assist people in preparing a report for single dwelling developments.
If my council requires my development application to include a bush fire report, how will I go about providing it?
On the NSW RFS website you will find various Guidelines, publications and Applicant Kits. These kits will take you through the step by step instructions for completing a bush fire assessment report and can be accessed via the website.
Alternatively, you can engage the services of bush fire planning and design consultants who can prepare a professional report for the development application. Contact details for bush fire planning and design consultants can be found on the internet in the yellow pages. Contact details for consultants that have received formal accreditation can be found on the Fire Protection Association of Australia website (www.fpaa.com.au).
If an applicant needs help with their application in order to comply with Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006, what does the NSW Rural Fire Service suggest?
On the NSW RFS website you will find various Applicants Kits. These guidelines will take you through the step by step instructions for completing a bush fire assessment report. Alternatively, there are a number of bush fire consultants who can provide an independent report to the developer or applicant regarding the impact Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006 may have on their proposed development.
It is not mandatory for applicants to provide an independent report prepared by a consultant. Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006 along with the Applicants Kits should give applicants all the information needed.
Will these requirements delay the processing of development applications?
The NSW Rural Fire Service has legislative timeframes for assessing development applications. All assessments are undertaken in concurrence with other legislative responsibilities of the consent authority.
What fees are payable and to who?
Any fees incurred for development application are determined by legislation. Details of these fees are available from your consent authority.
The NSW Rural Fire Service does not accept payment directly from applicants and therefore cannot provide receipts direct to the applicant.
Is the NSW Rural Fire Service the ultimate consent authority for residential development?
Residential development such as the construction of a single dwelling will only need to be referred to the NSW Rural Fire Service if the requirements of Planning of Bush Fire Protection 2006 are not met. The NSW Rural Fire Service may provide advice to the consent authority on the measures to be taken that will render the development more acceptable.
Where integrated developments such as residential subdivision and Special Fire Protection Purpose developments (nursing homes, schools etc) are intended, the NSW Rural Fire Service is required to provide a Bush Fire Safety Authority to the consent authority.
All proponents of development have the right of appeal to the NSW Land and Environment Court.
Where can I get more information?
You can download a copy of Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006 on the NSW Rural Fire Service website or you can purchase a hard copy version from the Department of Planning.
You may also contact your local NSW RFS District Office or local Council for further assistance.
Are commercial or industrial developments on bush fire prone land required to comply with Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006?
Some commercial and Industrial developments (buildings of Class 5-8 and 10B of the BCA) on bush fire prone land will need to comply with the aims and objectives of Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006 in relation to matters such as access, water and services, defendable space, emergency planning and landscaping/vegetation management.
What is a Defendable Space?
An area within the asset protection zone that provides an environment in which a person can undertake property protection after the passage of a bush fire with some level of safety.
What are the transitional arrangements for the period of change between Planning for Bushfire Protection 2001 and Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006?
Any development assessment receipted/acknowledged by the consent authority prior to the gazettal date (1/3/2007) of Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006 will be assessed under Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2001.
Any development assessment receipted/acknowledged by the consent authority on or after the gazettal date (1/3/2007) will be assessed under Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006.
What buildings are and are not covered by the bush fire legislation?
All habitable buildings must comply with Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006. However any detached structures (sheds decks etc.) within an APZ are also required to meet specific standards. Garages must also comply with Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006 and will have differing requirements dependant on whether they are attached to the house or free standing.
Subdivisions (100B of the Rural Fires Act, 1997)
What types of subdivisions does the Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006 apply to?
All types of subdivisions in bush fire prone areas are covered by Section 100B of Rural Fires Act 1997 and require a Bush Fire Safety Authority.
I want to make a small boundary adjustment. Do I need to prepare a Bush Fire Assessment Report in this instance?
Yes, only if the property falls within a bush fire prone area. Boundary adjustments may affect the asset protection zone/s and the ability of a house to meet setback distances from a bush fire hazard.
A consolidation of two or more lots into one is not defined as subdivision and is not captured under section 100B of the Rural Fires Act, 1997 as requiring a Bush Fire Safety Authority.
I own a parcel of land that I want to subdivide. How does the current legislation affect my application?
If the land is within a bush fire prone area and is being subdivided for residential (urban or rural) purposes, the development is classed as integrated development and must be referred to the NSW Rural Fire Service by the consent authority. The NSW Rural Fire Service will assess the proposal against Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006. You must meet the minimum requirements of Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006 for a Bush Fire Safety Authority to be issued.
I want to subdivide my block and cannot make the minimum APZ requirements. What can I do?
The NSW RFS and Australian Standard AS3959 do not accept an acceptable solution for Flame Zone developments. Performance can be demonstrated to the point of 29kWm2 (flame contact) at any point on a building but the Service will not accept a proposal that seeks to place a new house in an area that will be immersed in flame.
Seek to ensure sufficient lots sizes are created adjacent to bush land to accommodate the APZ.
Asset Protection Zones (APZs)
If part of the APZ falls on the adjoining land, whose responsibility is it to maintain the vegetation?
The maintenance of the APZ is always the responsibility of the owner of the land being developed. An APZ should be contained wholly within that block of land and cannot be imposed on a third party by either the NSW RFS or the consent authority.
Exceptions may occur and in such cases an easement must be entered into between the two land owners.
An adjoining land owner can negotiate and/or agree to a legal easement over their land for the purpose of an APZ if they wish to do so.
When there is a conflict between APZ and LEP (Local Environment Plan), what takes precedence?
Where an APZ is required, the APZ will always override the LEP requirements. If they are in contradiction, it is up to council to either adjust the LEP or refuse development on the site. The NSW RFS may consider a performance based solutions in these circumstances.
Where can I get information on managing the asset protection zone and vegetation?
Conditions of consent and the Rural Fires Act 1997 require vegetation to be managed to ensure it does not become a hazard. For more information on reducing the fire hazard around your property you can access the NSW RFS publication 'Standards for Asset Protection Zones' from the website.
Special Fire Protection Purpose Developments (SFPP)
What is a SFPP development?
In NSW SFPPs have been identified as:
- a school;
- a child care centre;
- a hospital (including a hospital for the mentally ill or mentally disordered);
- a hotel, motel or other tourist accommodation;
- a building wholly or principally used as a home or other establishment for mentally incapacitated persons;
- housing for older people or people with disabilities within the meaning of State Environmental Planning Policy (Seniors Living);
- a group home within the meaning of State Environmental Planning Policy (Group Homes);
- A retirement village;
- Any other purpose prescribed by the regulations (Section 100B (6) of the Rural Fires Act, 1997).
I am the owner/operator of a child care centre in a bush fire prone area. Are there any additional requirements that I should meet if I want to extend the centre?
Your application should comply with the provisions of Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006, particularly with regard to setback requirements for asset protection zones for Special Fire Protection Purpose developments.
Also of concern for child care centres will be provisions for evacuation and the safety of occupants. Construction standards will need to be consistent with the requirements in the Australian Standard AS3959 – 1999 Construction of Buildings in Bushfire-prone Areas.
You may also need to retrofit existing buildings to ensure improved safety.