Property owners face new bushfire risk assessments

Property owners face new bushfire risk assessments

The assessments must be carried out by a building surveyor or another building professional trained to perform BAL assessments.

Certain regions, such as the Hills, are obvious bushfire risk areas, but some residents may be surprised to find that their properties are also considered at risk.

The Office of Bushfire Risk Management exective manager Tim McNaught said a bushfire-prone area was an area that was subject to or likely to be subject to bushfires.

This includes both the area containing bushfire-prone vegetation and a 100m buffer zone immediately surrounding it.

More than 85 per cent of WA is bushfire-prone.

Home owners do not need to make any changes to their current residences, but from today all new buildings, major alterations and additions to certain residential buildings in designated bushfire-prone areas have been required to comply with the bushfire construction requirements of the Building Code of Australia (BCA).

Bushfire construction requirements are not new and have been in the BCA since the 1990s.

These standards are used across Australia and already applied in some WA local government areas including Armadale, Busselton, Kalamunda, Mundaring and Cockburn.

However, some property owners may now face increased construction costs based on the outcome of the BAL assessment.

The assessment assigns a property one of six BALs based on the slope of the land, type of surrounding vegetation and the distance of the building from that vegetation.

The cost to the home owner depends on the type of property to be built and the level of assessment.

Property owners can get an indication of their risk at www.dfes.wa.gov.au.

The map of bushfire-prone areas indentifies land falling within, or partially within, a bushfire-prone area as designated by the order of the Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner.

Areas coloured pink are designated bushfire-prone.

Owners can zoom in and click on an individual property to see if it is in a bushfire-prone area and right click on the property to get a status.

While the map gives an indication that a property is at risk, it doesn’t provide the level of risk.

To add to the potential confusion among property owners, some properties may be exempt from a BAL during the planning process, but may need to have one completed for the building permit approval process.

Property owners are advised to contact their local government if they want to build or make alternations.

New Home Building Brokers (NHBB) managing director Tristan Kirkham said owners should always get further checks.

“It is absolutely critical that people thinking of building get independent advice on this topic,” he said.

“You need to be very careful about what you are told when looking at a display home, and check that the information you are getting is correct from an independent source.

“It is best to do a full design cost check before you lock yourself into anything.”

The regulations were announced in December and come into effect this month.

Mr Kirkham said the short timeframe could cause some problems, with builders and councils needing to quickly get up to speed on the changes.

He said a number of builders had already indicated to NHBB that they will not build in the FZ zone.

“One of the reasons is they don’t know if Perth has a steel frame window manufacturer, let alone the costs involved,” he said.

For further information on the new bushfire regulations property owners can contact the Department of Planning, the Building Commission, the Department of Fire & Emergency Services, the Office of Bushfire Risk Management and their local government.