Bush fire risk in the Lower Hunter

This is your opportunity to provide feedback on how the risk of bush fire is managed across our area.

Fire agencies, land managers and other stakeholders have been working to identify ways of reducing the impact of fires on our area – protecting lives, homes, businesses, agriculture, the environment and other assets that are important to the Lower Hunter.

The local Bush Fire Management Committee has developed a draft Bush Fire Risk Management Plan, which identifies the risks and the plans to protect them.

The draft plan identifies the risk to communities and the assets we all value. Using feedback from fire agencies, land managers and other stakeholders, the plan identifies ways of reducing the impact of fires across our area.

Your input is important – and by planning together, we will help shape the Bush Fire Risk Management Plan for our area for the next five years.

Note: As this is a pilot of a new approach to bush fire risk management plans, the initial 'Have your say' stage did not take place for this plan and community members can now provide feedback on the draft plan.

How the Lower Hunter Bush Fire Risk Management Committee have assessed the risk

Fire is a part of living in the Lower Hunter. It has been a part of this landscape for millions of years.

As our population and region changes, the risk of fires impacting on our community has changed.

To understand the bush fire risk in the Lower Hunter, and help inform the best ways of managing and reducing the risk, we’ve looked at what’s important to local communities – including where people live, as well as environmental, economic and cultural assets.

We look at the assets across the landscape, and using computer modelling, we have tested scenarios for possible fire conditions to understand the impact on the community.

 
Residential: The residential risk map shows the modelled risk to homes and properties from bush fires. Each coloured square on the map represents the risk to a home or a group of homes. The map displays the comparative risk across the local Bush Fire Management Committee area. If your home is in the lowest risk category it can still be damaged in a bush fire, it is just less likely to be damaged compared to other areas.
Economic: The economic risk map shows the modelled risk to economic assets from bush fires. The risk is calculated based on the economic loss of the modelled damage assessment and how long it is expected that the asset will return to the pre-fire condition. These are important considerations because if they are destroyed during a fire, they can have long lasting impacts on employment and population in the area.
Environmental: This map shows the environmental assets that have been modelled as being at highest risk from bush fire in the area. This includes areas at risk because they contain threatened species vulnerable to fire, vegetation types sensitive to fire e.g. rainforests or land managed for conservation or environmental outcomes that does not include fire.
Cultural Predicted Aboriginal Assets: This map shows the predicted Aboriginal cultural assets that have been modelled as being at the highest risk from bush fire in the area.
Fuel Management Register and Focus Areas: This map shows the Fuel Management Register – a list of hazard reduction activities identified as strategic treatments in the risk plan. The Fuel Management treatments include prescribed burns, BFMC managed Asset Protection Zones and the development or maintenance of Fire Breaks. This map also displays the areas identified by the Bush Fire Management Committee as Focus Areas.

Managing the risk in the Lower Hunter

We have considered the risk to people and assets across the area to determine the most appropriate and effective way of managing that risk.

Some areas of the Lower Hunter were impacted by the 2019-20 bush fire season, and these areas may have a reduced potential for fires spreading until vegetation fully recovers.

There are some measures which apply broadly – such as vegetation management, development controls, bush fire education, and fire suppression activities. These activities reduce the bush fire risk to assets and communities throughout the area.

Where an unacceptable risk exists for a particular area or assets, additional targeted treatment strategies are planned during the next five-year period. These treatment options include:

  • Fuel management – the reduction or modification of bush fire fuel with the intent of slowing the spread of bush fire and aiding firefighting operations. This may be identified as;
    • Asset protection zones – these are typically close to homes, and provide a separation from the bushland to reduce the impact of fires, and give firefighters a safe place to work if protecting homes in a fire;
    • Ignition management zones – areas in the landscape maintained at  a reduced fuel level to minimise the propagation of ignitions and limit the rapid escalation of fires;
    • Strategic fire advantage zones – these are areas across the broad landscape which, when treated, can help slow the spread of a fire across the landscape;
    • Firebreaks – areas designed and managed to provide fuel reduced areas from which a fire can be suppressed.
  • Ignition prevention – activities to prevent or reduce bush fire ignitions whether they be accidental or deliberate. This includes community preparedness programs, fuel management and specific actions in the Ignition Prevention Plan.
  • Community preparedness – activities such as working with residents to improve their level of planning and preparation for a fire, to increase the survivability of their home and families in the event of a fire.
  • Response – specific response requirements for a particular area or value in addition to standard procedures. This may include specific actions in the BFMC Plan of Operations or Fire Access and Fire Trail plan.

To address the risk, the Lower Hunter Bush Fire Management Committee has identified:

  • 50 hazard reductions, covering 6,379 hectares;
  • 264 asset protection zones; and
  • community engagement activities in all Focus Areas.

As a result of these planned works, it is anticipated that 57% of homes and assets in the Lower Hunter would have a reduced risk of fire.

Download the draft Bush Fire Risk Management Plan for the Lower Hunter

Focus Areas

Focus areas help prioritise works to protect people and properties, as well as assets which are important to the community.

Through the assessment and planning process, the local Bush Fire Management Committee has identified a number of focus areas, based on the level of risk and factors such as the social vulnerability of the community, access and egress and local significance.

Importantly, if an asset isn’t a focus area, it may still be at risk of fire.

These focus areas have been identified for the Lower Hunter.

Focus area
Abermain/Neath
Duns Creek
Eaglereach
Kitchener/Abernathy
Kurri Kurri
Pelton, Paxton and Ellalong
Tilligerry
Tomaree
Significant Environmental Assets in Lower Hunter BFMC
Significant Aboriginal Assets in Lower Hunter BFMC
Read the draft plan in full
A detailed version of the Lower Hunter Draft Bush Fire Risk Management Plan is available to view.
The draft is also on public exhibition at:
Lower Hunter Fire Control Centre
110 Mt Vincent Road
East Maitland NSW 2323
Have your say
You can provide feedback on the draft plan until 5pm on 31 August 2022. Feedback can be provided in multiple ways:
Provide feedback online via our simple form Give feedback
Email your feedback to NSW RFS at Lower.Hunter@rfs.nsw.gov.au
Please include your name and contact details in the email.
Post written feedback to:
NSW RFS
PO Box 2317
Green Hills NSW 2323
Please include your name and contact details in your written submission.
Lower Hunter Bush Fire Management Committee

Lower Hunter Bush Fire Management Committee is made up of a range of stakeholders from the area including emergency services, land management agencies, local government and local aboriginal land services, and local community groups. This ensures key community stakeholders have a say on bush fire management activities for the benefit of their communities.

Lower Hunter Bush Fire Management Committee is made up representatives from the following agencies and organisations:

Agency/Organisation
NSW Rural Fire Service
NSW Crown Lands
Department of Defence
Energy Australia
NSW Farmers' Association
Fire and Rescue NSW
NSW Forestry Corporation
Cessnock City Council
Dungog Shire Council
Port Stephens Council
Maitland City Council
Local Aboriginal Land Council
Nature Conservation Council
National Parks and Wildlife Service
NSW Police Force
Transport for NSW
About Lower Hunter

The Lower Hunter Bush Fire Management Committee (BFMC) area spans 557,113 ha. The area covers the Local Government Area/s (LGA) of Cessnock, Dungog, Maitland and Port Stephens and features National Parks covering an area of 111,068 ha and State Forests covering an area of 40,465 ha.

The Lower Hunter area has approximately 62.4% bushland and 31% grassland with the balance being the built environment or water bodies. A bush or grass fire can happen at any time of the year, but the risk is higher during the warmer months, when bush, grass or scrub is drier.

  • According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2021 Census Community Profile there are 97,159 residential dwellings in the Lower Hunter BFMC area with an approximate population of 224,192.
  • According to the ABS data on the counts of Australian businesses, there were 14,195 businesses in the Lower Hunter BFMC. The top three industries in the BFMC are construction, professional, scientific and technical services and rental, hiring and real estate services, which make up approximately 41% of businesses in the Lower Hunter BFMC.
  • The last major bush fires happened in the 2019/2020 Bush Fire Season – with 69,751 hectares burned.
  • There are multiple valuable community assets across the area along with a number of culturally significant sites and environmentally important sites.
Plan and Prepare

Bush fire survival plan

Getting ready for a bush fire is easier than you think. Make a bush fire survival plan so you know what you will do if there’s a fire near you.

Prepare your home

A well-prepared home is more likely to survive a bush fire. Even if your plan is to leave early, the more you prepare your home, the more likely it will survive a bush fire or ember attack.

Prepare yourself and your family

Preparation isn’t just about cleaning up around the house and having a plan. It’s also about making sure you consider your physical, mental and emotional preparedness.

Reporting a bush fire hazard

The NSW RFS is responsible for inspecting bush fire hazards, providing advice and if necessary, issuing notices to all landowners and managers to reduce hazards. If you believe there is a bush fire hazard near your property, you can make a formal complaint by