Bushfire-prone zoning push

Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Wayne Gregson is leading the push for parts of the Perth Hills to be declared “bushfire prone”. Picture: News Ltd.
Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Wayne Gregson is leading the push for parts of the Perth Hills to be declared “bushfire prone”. Picture: News Ltd.

The fire-zone mapping and declaration process, which is being led by Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Wayne Gregson, will identify bushfire risk areas and result in amendments to local planning schemes across the region to create stricter regulations, including mandatory construction requirements for new homes.

The new legislation will declare any property within 100m of 1ha or more bushland as being subject to, or likely to be subject to, a bushfire.

The Perth Hills would join Busselton and Margaret River as WA’s declared bushfire hazard zones, a move that could push the cost of building a new home in the area up by $20,000.

The WA Planning Commission has also recently released new guidelines on bushfire risk management for public comment.

The document provides guidance when planning new developments in designated bushfire-prone areas.

The mandatory provisions for the construction of new Hills homes will fall under the Building Code of Australia and the Australian Standards AS3959.

These include requirements that new homes are constructed using reduced-risk building materials and that walls and roofs are sealed so embers cannot enter.

A bushfire assessment would also be required to establish the threat of bushfire on the proposed dwelling.

The report takes into account matters such as the area’s fire danger index, block slope and vegetation type and density to determine the intensity of a potential fire attack.

The City of Swan has already acted to declare bushfire-prone zones.

In January, the council voted for an amendment to its Local Planning Scheme No 17 to force new home owners to comply with Australian Standard AS3959 and enable Hills properties to better withstand a bushfire.

The action is not retrospective, meaining existing homes designated as being in bushfire- prone areas would need to comply with the new standards only if renovations or extensions had been undertaken.

The zones come in reaction to the Keelty Report into the 2011 Perth Hills fires, which recommended that the areas be identified and changes be made to the way new homes are built,

Fire ravaged 72 homes and damaged another 32 properties in Kelmscott and Roleystone in 2011, and another 52 houses were lost in Stoneville and Parkerville in January.

– To view the WAPC’s new bushfire risk management policies, visit tinyurl.com/l5r39vz. The public consultation period closes on July 4. To view of copy of Australian Standards AS3959, visit tinyurl.com/lau9wpj