The jewel in the crown of the South-West
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MAPPING OF BUSHFIRE PRONE AREAS
The State Government has released the mapping of bush fire prone areas. These can be viewed by clicking here.
You can enter “Bridgetown” or “Greenbushes” and the mapping comes up as an overlay on an aerial photo. You can zoom in and out.
The Shire staff have indicated that the mapping is pretty much what they expected, based on the mapping criteria that had previously been released. Most of the Bridgetown townsite west of Hampton Street is declared bush fire prone with the notable exception of the central parts of Highland Estate. Probably half of the townsite east of Hampton Street. Due to the proximity of forest Greenbushes and North Greenbushes have also been identified as bush fire prone. Broad acre rural areas are also widely identified.
It was always expected that areas in and close to the Bridgetown town centre would be declared due to the vegetated areas above Geegelup Brook, vegetation along Somme Creek, Blackwood River, around the camp school, Suttons Lookout, endowment land significant roadside vegetation, etc.
The mapping classifies all the identified land as “bush fire prone”. The mapping doesn’t distinguish between the different scales of bush fire prone. That is determined at the development approval stage where a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) assessment has to be done.
Within bushfire-prone land all applications for new dwellings and outbuildings close to existing dwellings will have to be accompanied by a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) assessment. The BAL assessment will determine the BAL category ranging from very low, low, moderate, high, very high and extreme and this will determine if any special construction requirements will be applicable, including the possibility that construction will have to be in accordance with AS3959 Construction of Buildings in Bushfire Prone Land. Various research has indicated that the costs of building a home will increase as the BAL category increases through the high, very high and extreme categories. At this point in time shire staff are unable to estimate by how much. There has been estimates from as wide a range of a few hundred dollars (no doubt where the land is assessed to be in the “very low” category) to over one hundred thousand dollars where the land is assessed to be in the “extreme” category. There is no doubt this will have an effect on the ability of people to build a house however there is a contrary view that houses in bush fire prone areas built to the new standards will better be able to withstand the threat of fire.
Importantly to existing homeowners, the BAL assessment requirements aren’t retrospective to existing homes unless significant building extensions are proposed or outbuildings are planned in close proximity to the house.
Local governments will be required to enforce the standards in bush fire prone areas however it will the responsibility of accredited consultants to determine the Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) assessment category. Property owners seeking to develop their land in a bush fire prone area will be required to pay the cost of engaging such a consultant to prepare a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) assessment. Just as engineering advice/certification has become a standard requirement for house approvals so will the Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) assessment.