This document is a proposal to design a manual to explain the approval processes on fire protection emergency services on proposed developments on bush fire prone land.
The aim of this document is to describe the nature of a bush fire prone land and the fire safety measures desirable to prevent any accidental occurrences of bush fires. Areas designated as bush fire prone are classified as vegetation areas and buffer zones. The former are typically divided into class 1 and 2.
This classification depends on a combination on the vegetation type’s bush fire hazard and the proximity to any proposed development. Furthermore, these vegetation classes can be further divided into twelve sub-categories that are crucial in the determination of the building construction levels and the establishment of property protection zones.
On the other hand, the buffer zones are classified beyond the vegetation classification areas and constitute land, which may be directly affected by bush because of an exposure to radiant heat. In most cases buffer zones may be 30 meters or 100 meters in breadth depending on the type of vegetation.
Bush fire prone areas are gazetted on a map prepared by a relevant authority in collaboration with the fire protection agencies. These lands are identified on a planning certificate issued under the environmental planning and assessment legislation.
Approval processes required if a property is identified as bush fire prone areas
Any project, activity, or development on bush fire prone areas requires two distinct development processes. These types of assessment processes will depend on the type of the proposed development activity. For example, an integrated development will need the Bush Fire Safety Authority from the relevant institution to become an integrated development under the legislation governing environmental matters. In addition, there are developments that do not require the Bush Fire Safety Authority.
Bush fire safety authority should be obtained for developments such as a subdivision of bush fire prone land that can be utilized lawfully for residential purposes. Other developments on bush fire prone lands for fire protection purposes includes public utilities such as schools, medical facilities, restaurants, sheltered workshops and any other purpose prescribed by the relevant authority such as student or staff accommodation and respite care centers.
The relevant institution will be required to forward an application for an integrated development to obtain an acceptance or rejection of the application and the relevant terms for the approval or refusal. In case of refusal of an application, the local authority must also refuse the application.
For the local developments, the legislations covering environmental planning and assessment must relate to the consultation and assessment requisites for developments on bush fire prone areas. It is a requirement that relevant institution must not grant development consent to any project application for any development on bush fire prone land unless the institution is contented that the development conforms to the requirements of planning for bush fire protection.
In addition, it must consult with the relevant other stakeholders and relevant institutions concerning appropriate measures with respect to the proposed development, in order to ensure safety to human life, property, and the environment from any negative effect that may arise from bush fire.
Local developments required to consider planning for bush fire protection
Planning for protection of bush fires are directed to zoning and subdivision of land and the construction of buildings of residential developments under building codes where land is categorized as being prone to bush fire. Other classes of building covered include pools, garages, and decks. Building types that may not be subjected to bush fire protection legislations includes dual occupancy dwellings that are not subject to zoning and subdivision since they are not able to meet the requirements of the planning for bush fire protection.
In addition, land subdivided for residential or rural residential, or proposed developments identified as special fire protection purpose are not considered in this category. Furthermore, minor development elements such as swimming pools, clothing lines, fencing are exempted from the regulation.
Requirements for an application for development on bush fire prone land
The guidelines for planning for bush fire protection requires that a report must be submitted together with all necessary development applications on bush fire prone land to the relevant institution. The developer will be required to produce a bush fire assessment report that may contain a duly completed pro-rata form accompanied with the application kit to the planning for bush fire protection guidelines. Consequently, a developer may present an independent report prepared by a qualified fire protection consultant.
The reports should be able to explain how the development proposal will be able to meet the standards provided by the guidelines for bush fire protection. The report should also specify the main objectives of the proposed development, as well as, the performance criteria for the various bush fire protection measures. The developer will also be required to provide integrated development proposals to address the specified criteria as per the guidelines for bush fire protection.
In addition, local developments are also required to abide by the guidelines. Thus, in order to meet the assessment criteria to the protection measures of bush fire, it is necessary that a developer make use of all the acceptable solutions, or make use viable alternative solutions that will meet the general requirements, performance criteria, as well as, specific objectives of the proposed development.
The bush fire assessment report leads to the establishment of the proposed development, or asset protection areas to be very valuable in the determination of building construction standards. The asset protection zones are areas set aside of managed land and are cleared of vegetation to minimize fuel loads; hence, providing a buffer zone between the proposed development and the hazard (vegetation). The area of the buffer zone depends on the type of vegetation, the levels of building construction, and the general slope of the landscape.
Developers should not only depend on construction standards only since they are insufficient in providing protection from the impacts of bush fire. The maintenance of the buffer zones is the responsibility of the land developer and will be monitored by the relevant consent authority mandated to ensure that an ideal mechanism is put in place for the maintenance of the buffer zones over the lifetime of the proposed development.
The reader should understand that developments such as fences, garages, or shades might be allowed within the buffer zones and within an approximated radius of ten meters of a dwelling unit, under conditions that the facilities are constructed form non-flammable materials.