Victoria's bushfire planning and building framework
Victoria’s bushfire threat
The 'Victorian State Bushfire Plan' states that Victoria is one of the most fire-prone areas in the world with a history of catastrophic bushfires.
The last decade has seen a dramatic increase in the number, size and severity of bushfires. Major fire events such as the 2003 Alpine Fire, 2006 Grampians Fire, the 2006/07 Great Divide fire and the devastating 2009 Black Saturday fires are evidence of increasing fire risk.
The CFA video Lessons from the past: Three major Victorian bushfires describes the circumstances of the 1939, 1983 and 2009 fires and fire behaviour.
A variety of causes can ignite a bushfire. Some causes, such as lightning strikes, are natural and cannot be prevented while others result from human activity. The high bushfire risk in Victoria is the consequence of a combination of factors including:
- large areas of highly flammable dry eucalypt forest and expanses of highly flammable grassland
- a climatic pattern of mild, moist winters followed by hot dry summers
- protracted droughts
- agricultural practices that include the use of fire
- increasing population density in bushfire-prone areas, such as in the rural-urban fringe.
This overview of Victoria’s bushfire threat is from the State Bushfire Plan, 2012, Fire Services Commissioner Victoria
2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission
The Black Saturday bushfires of 7 February 2009 resulted in the loss of 173 lives, saw over 2,000 homes destroyed and 430,000 hectares burnt. These tragic events have left a lasting legacy on the lives of many Victorians and have spurred action on the way our planning and building systems support community resilience to bushfire today and into the future.
The 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission was established to investigate the causes and responses to the bushfires and how the risks of such a disaster recurring might be reduced.
Its recommendations give priority to protecting human life and are designed to reflect the shared responsibility that governments, fire agencies, communities and individuals have for minimising the prospect of a tragedy on the scale of February 2009 ever happening again.
Responding to the bushfire threat through land use planning
Victoria has long recognised the important role of land use planning in community resilience to bushfire.
The Royal Commission into the 1939 bushfires recommended that sawmills be directed away from extreme forested environments and into settlements, a recommendation that was implemented.
The 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires initiated research which informed the introduction of Victoria’s first bushfire specific planning tool, the Wildfire Management Overlay.
In 2002 the Council of Australian Governments concluded that land use planning which takes into account natural hazard risks is the single most important mitigation measure in preventing future disaster losses in areas of new development.
The important role of land use planning was reinforced by the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission (VBRC), with nearly one third of its recommendations relating to the planning and building system.
Integrated Planning and Building Framework for Bushfire in Victoria
The key elements of the Integrated Planning and Building Framework are illustrated in this diagram:
You can also read our fact sheet for an overview of the bushfire planning and building provisions and answers to frequently asked questions:
1. A three-tier approach to mapping the bushfire hazard in Victoria and for triggering planning and building system requirements.
The approach identifies the areas to be included into the Bushfire Management Overlay in planning schemes and the Bushfire Prone Area in the Building Regulations.
2. Bushfire planning provisions
Planning provisions are included in Victorian planning schemes and include:
3. Building regulations
The Victorian Building Regulations have been updated to include:
- that development in declared Bushfire Prone Areas is assessed at the building permit stage to determine the level of construction required to respond to the local bushfire hazard, with all new development to be constructed with ember protection at a minimum
- ensuring that where a matter is addressed as part of the planning application under the Bushfire Management Overlay the assessment need not be repeated at the building permit stage. This is sometimes referred to as the single site assessment.
4. Vegetation exemptions for bushfire protection
Vegetation management ‘rules’ have been established which include planning permit exemptions for bushfire shelters and for managing vegetation around existing homes and fencelines.