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Am I allowed to rebuild?

Yes, you will just need to meet the relevant requirements and get appropriate approvals.

How can the NSW RFS help with the development approval process in bush fire prone areas?

The NSW RFS can help with identifying your bush fire attack level and can provide advice on bush fire protection measures. Your council will refer applications for higher risk properties to the NSW RFS for review – this is for homes with a bush fire attack level of BAL-40 or BAL-FZ.

What are the fees from the NSW RFS?

The NSW RFS does not charge any fees for development applications for new single dwellings, sheds, or alterations/additions to existing dwellings.

Where can I get more information?

The key documents for building in a bush fire prone area are the NSW RFS publication Planning for Bush Fire Protection and AS 3959 – Construction of buildings in bushfire- prone areas.

You can get help and advice from the NSW RFS on 1300 NSW RFS (1300 679 737).

Do I have to get a report from a bush fire consultant?

No, you do not have to get a report from a bush fire consultant. The NSW RFS provides the Single Dwelling Application Kit for homeowners to undertake a self-assessment. If you choose to lodge a Complying Development Certificate instead of a Development Application you will need to have a BAL Certificate. This could be obtained from a bush fire consultant or council.

We built recently. Do we still need to get all the approvals again?

Your development consents may still apply to new dwellings on the same site, as long as the building envelope has not changed. Check with council.

What is the average cost of construction for each bush fire attack level (BAL)?

The higher your risk, the more protection you need. Generally speaking, there are higher construction costs for a higher level of protection from bush fires. Your construction costs will also depend on the size, siting and design of the building. Many people find that speaking to an architect, builder or insurance company can help identify estimated costs and possible ways to reduce these. If there is enough space on your land, consider moving your house location further away from the hazard to reduce your BAL and therefore decrease construction costs.

How can I reduce my construction costs or my bush fire attack level?

If you have enough space on your land, consider moving the location of your home away from the hazard. This is the best way to reduce your bush fire attack level. We recommend you seek advice on the most appropriate location on your land.

We are altering existing buildings, not rebuilding. Do we need to comply with the same process as new buildings?

Yes, any alterations or additions need to comply with the same process as new buildings to ensure the appropriate level of bush fire protection is provided.

In particular, the proposed alterations or additions and the existing dwelling may require ember protection.

What approvals do I need for sheds, fences and swimming pools?

These types of features are considered ancillary development. If they are located more than 6 metres away from the house, there are no construction requirements for bush fire protection. If they are located within 6 metres of the house, they need to meet the same construction requirements as the bush fire attack level as the house. For example, sheds might need to be made out of particular materials

We are rebuilding more than one house or adding a granny flat. Do we need to do anything additional?

If your property has a higher level of bush fire risk, such as BAL-40 or BAL-FZ, it is probably too dangerous to put additional development near the hazard.

If there is enough space on your land, consider moving both houses further away from the hazard. This will mean that you are able to rebuild both dwellings provided that it is a BAL of 29 or lower and meets council’s requirements.

How do I maintain my property to protect it from bush fire? Am I allowed to have a garden?

You can definitely have a garden. It just needs to be well maintained. There are simple things you can do like:

  • keep grass low
  • ensure there are no overhanging tree branches over the house
  • prune low branches on trees
  • keep trees separate – the tops (or crowns) should be two to five metres away from each other
  • keep garden beds and trees away from windows.

How do I choose the right plants?

Your property will be better protected if you avoid the build-up of fine fuels around your home. You can do this through regular and simple maintenance and through selecting certain types of plants. Select plants based on:

  • their attributes like their moisture content, canopy height, and density of foliage,
  • their location, for example, avoid placing garden beds under windows as this lowers your protection from bush fire.

We recommend you speak to a landscaping consultant or arborist, as they will be able to help you choose the best types of plants.

Apart from the bush fire protection measures that are outlined in this kit, what else can I do to protect my home from bush fire?

Some additional measures you could consider are:

  • position a sign on your property so that firefighters can easily see that you have a water source – this sign is called a Static Water Supply marker
  • make sure your water supply is easily accessible to firefighters – for example, underground tanks need an access hole of 200mm, and dams need a hardened ground surface that trucks can access.
  • make sure you have a bush fire survival plan.

Key contacts and support

For help with rebuilding in a bush fire prone area:

You can talk to your local council about:

  • Whether you can proceed under complying development – the fast track alternative to the DA process
  • What will need to be submitted in a development application

You can talk to the NSW RFS about building in a bush fire prone area.

  • Visit the NSW RFS website or speak to an officer on 1300 NSW RFS (1300 679 737)

You could also engage an accredited bush fire consultant.

There may be a recovery centre which has arrangements in place to assist you – check with council if you’re not sure. If there is a recovery centre, check with them for what arrangements have been made to assist in rebuilding.

For help with other parts of your recovery

There are services available to help you.

  • If you feel you need to speak with someone about your experience, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14, beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or speak to your GP
  • For financial assistance, talk to Disaster Welfare Services or Centrelink
  • For agricultural assistance, talk to the NSW Department of Primary Industries or the Local Land Services