Planning for Bush Fire Protection
After the 2001 Black Christmas fires in Sydney, which destroyed 109 homes and burnt more than 750,000 hectares, a Joint Parliamentary Inquiry was established. The resulting report endorsed the release of a document which contained specifications for building on land identified as bush fire prone. This document is Planning for Bush Fire Protection (PBP).
Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006
Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006 is intended for use by councils, town planners, NSW fire authorities, developers, planning and bush fire consultants, surveyors, and building practitioners (including accredited certifiers).
PBP 2006 allows for considerable flexibility and innovation that links the bush fire hazard for a site with the implementation of appropriate bush fire protection measures. These bush fire protection measures must be addressed in any development applications located on bush fire prone land. Check if you live on Bush Fire Prone Land.
By incorporating bush fire protection measures into a development the six objectives of Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006 are addressed:
- afford occupants of any building adequate protection from exposure to a bush fire
- provide for a defendable space to be located around buildings
- provide appropriate separation between a hazard and buildings which, in combination with other measures, prevent direct flame contact and material ignition
- ensure that safe operational access and egress for emergency service personnel and residents is available
- provide for ongoing management and maintenance of bush fire protection measures, including fuel loads in the asset protection zone (APZ)
- ensure that utility services are adequate to meet the needs of fire fighters (and others assisting in bush fire fighting).
Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2018
A review has been conducted of Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006, which included a periods of targeted and full public consultation.
Since that time, the NSW RFS has worked extensively with representatives from the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) and stakeholders to prepare a pre-release version of the document.
It is anticipated that PBP 2018 will become legislated by mid – 2019, to coincide with the enactment of the National Construction Code 2019. Until then, PBP 2018 is in a ‘pre-release’ stage, also known as the transitionary period.
Until PBP 2018 becomes legislated, PBP 2006 will remain the legally referenced document and PBP 2018 can be used on a performance basis in consultation with NSW RFS only.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is PBP?
PBP identifies best practice for developing in bush fire prone areas. NSW planning law requires all new development on bush fire prone land to be done in accordance with PBP. The aim of PBP is to provide for the protection of human life and to minimise the impacts on property from the threat of bush fire. PBP is based on industry best practice and available science to ensure that new development is not exposed to high bush fire risk.
What does PBP cover?
PBP covers everything from development applications to building construction requirements. It provides standards for new residential and rural residential subdivisions, bush fire protection measures for new buildings, as well as guidance in upgrading existing development. It provides specific provisions for the most at-risk developments, like schools and aged care facilities. PBP is applicable to all development applications and complying development on bush fire prone land in NSW.
Why has PBP been reviewed?
As the Australian landscape changes so too does our understanding of what it can do. Since the last revision of PBP in 2006, there have been improvements in the understanding of the underpinning science and changes to building construction standards. In addition, following the findings from the Victorian 2009 Bush Fires Royal Commission, changes in bush fire protection measures have also been made which needed to be considered. Over the last few years, the NSW RFS has written and published a multitude of fact sheets to clarify or update PBP, and these have been incorporated into the revised PBP.
What are the major changes to PBP?
A major change to PBP is a redesign of the document for ease of use and clarity. A Fact Sheet detailing all of the technical changes involved in PBP 2018 titled PBP 2006 to PBP 2018 – What has changed? is available on the NSW RFS website.
Why are there two versions of PBP?
PBP 2018 has been through an extensive consultation period and has received Ministerial and Secretarial approval for publication. The legislation enacting PBP has not yet been amended. Publication of the legislative amendments is expected to take place mid-2019. The period between the publication of Pre-Release PBP 2018 and the legislative enactment is a Transitionary Period.
Which version of PBP can I use?
The Transitionary Period will last from the publication of Pre-Release PBP 2018 to the legislative amendments being enacted, which is expected mid-2019. During the Transitionary Period, the 2006 version of PBP remains the legislated version and the 2018 version may be considered in performance solutions only.
Is there a Grace Period?
No. It is envisaged that PBP will be enacted concurrent with the National Construction Code in mid-2019. Once PBP 2018 becomes the legislated version of the document, applicants can no longer use PBP 2006 for development applications.
I have a DA from Council that was approved requiring compliance with PBP 2006 and AS3959-2009. Which version of PBP do I use for construction?
Modifications to development consents under s.4.55 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 should be considered using the version of the PBP in effect at the time of the original consent. As Council is the Consent Authority they should be consulted on this matter on a case by case basis. Similarly, certification of construction in accordance with the National Construction Code shall be undertaken against the version of the PBP in effect at the time of the original approval.
What will happen with Complying Development Certificates?
Complying Development Certificates (CDC) must comply with certain regulations of PBP 2006, therefore CDCs cannot be issued in accordance with PBP 2018.
Will Council need to refer the application back to the NSW RFS under s4.14 for further consultation?
Yes, all development applications using PBP 2018 in a performance solution will need to be referred back to the NSW RFS under s.4.14 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. Refer to PBP 2018 – Pre Release Transition Information Release.
Why have the fuel loads changed?
Over a decade ago, the NSW RFS engaged the Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires (University of Wollongong) to undertake fuel load research to improve the overall knowledge of fuel loads, specific for vegetation in NSW. That research has been complimented by information supplied more recently by the CSIRO, who undertook additional research to create a database of NSW specific fuel loads, which has been updated into PBP 2018. More information is available on the NSW RFS website.
Why has grasslands suddenly become an issue?
Grasslands cover approximately 80% of New South Wales. Grass fires are unpredictable, spread quickly and can move three times faster than a bush fire. AS3959-2009 Construction of buildings in bush fire prone areas adopted provisions for grasslands in the 2009 edition. The increased emphasis on grasslands was intended to bring PBP into line with AS3959. It should be noted that the deeming provisions for grasslands in PBP 2018 are intended to provide a lower cost streamlined alternative to AS3959. PBP 2018 has included additional information in advance of an expected increase in the extent of mapped grassland on bush fire prone land.
Where can I get more information about building in bush fire prone areas?
To find out if you live in a bush fire prone area you can use our online search tool at www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/check-bfpl. For more details on developing in bush fire prone areas, visit www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/building.
Where can I find out about FDIs?
Fire Weather Districts and FDIs for NSW Local Government Areas are used in reference to Planning for Bush Fire Protection and can be found here.
Where can I get help?
If you have any questions about Planning for Bush Fire Protection please contact PBP2018@rfs.nsw.gov.au.
If you need assistance with your proposed development you can contact a qualified consultant.