What is a Bushfire Prone Area?
Under the Building Act 1993 the Minister for Planning can designate land as a Bushfire Prone Area (BPA).
The Bushfire Prone Area designation is widely applied across the state and applies to all land with an existing bushfire hazard, including grassland.
The BPA designation simply maps an existing vegetation bushfire hazard for the purposes of the building system. It is not affected by any other controls such as whether a planning permit has been issued or land has been sold or titled.
The Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO) is a control under the planning system that applies in addition to the BPA in areas of high to extreme bushfire hazard. See more about the BMO.
What is the effect of being in a Bushfire Prone Area?
If land is in a BPA, construction of a dwelling must meet the minimum standard for improved bushfire protection. Landowners are required to build to a minimum Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) of 12.5. This typically adds about $6000 to the cost of construction but can be much more.
New dwellings and attached outbuildings, apartments, hotels and buildings such as hospitals, schools, kindergartens, and care facilities which are occupied by the vulnerable, or significant alterations and/or additions to these, located in a Designated Bushfire Prone Area must be built to a minimum BAL 12.5 construction standard for sites assessed as BAL Low.
Note: Where only part of the property is mapped as BPA, if no part of the building envelope or footprint falls within the BPA area, the BPA construction requirements do not apply. A definition plan generated in VicPlan will provide measurements of the BPA as it applies to a lot. See more information for lot owners or VicPlan Help.
Timing and stages of a review
The department reviews the BPA twice a year with each review taking about six months to complete. When a review concludes, the next review usually opens within a week.
The review process is shown below but as many factors can affect the process, the timing is approximate.
|Stages of a review||Timing|
|1. Review opens - email to developers, councils and the CFA requesting identification of sites for review. |
Note: Only sites where the bushfire hazard has been removed or where civil works have commenced should be nominated because the BPA will only be removed if the bushfire hazard has been removed enough to meet criteria agreed with fire service agencies.
|2. Collate requests and prepare for site visits||Weeks 4-6|
|3. Conduct site visits statewide|
Note: The site should be cleared of the hazard by the time that we visit because the review hinges on what we see when we visit. If it is not cleared by then, it will have to be considered in a following review.
|4. Prepare draft maps for consultation||Weeks 11-12|
(one to two weeks)
|5. Consultation with councils and fire authorities|
Note: Timing varies depending time of year, for example, end of year break, bushfire season, and if we need further consultation on some sites.
|Weeks 13-18 |
(four to six weeks)
|6. Prepare final maps, documentation and brief for approval; approval; gazette notice; update online map; lodge updated map and notify all parties.||Weeks 19-28|
(six to eight weeks)
Timing of a current review
Approximate timing for a current review is published on the Building in bushfire prone areas page at the start of a review.
Timing of site inspections for the next review
For a rough estimate of when site inspections may occur for the next review, use the published estimated finish date for the current review and extrapolate the approximate review timing in the table above.
How much vegetation hazard must be cleared for removal of the BPA?
The department will recommend removal of the BPA if the criteria for removal of the bushfire hazard has been met at the time that we visit the site to assess it.
Usually this will require significant clearing down to bare earth of the area to be assessed. We would usually need to see civil works such as commencement of road and pavement construction as an indication that dwelling construction will soon follow. There have been instances when the BPA was removed but then work halted on the subdivision, the hazard returned, and it had to be included in the BPA again.
A 60-metre buffer from the edge of the hazard is included in the BPA as protection from ember attack. Lots on the edge of a stage of a subdivision can be caught in the 60-metre buffer and owners will pay extra to build to the standard only to find that the BPA is subsequently removed when clearing occurs for the next stage of the development. To avoid this, developers could consider clearing a 60-metre area around the stage currently proposed for development. This would need to be weighed against extra dust created especially in summer.
An area less than two hectares can remain as grassland, but it needs to be surrounded by at least 60 metres of bare earth.
Mown or slashed grass is not acceptable as removal of the hazard because it can grow back very quickly. Fire authorities will not accept slashed grass as removal.
Example of a site that is NOT ready for BPA removal:
Example of a site that IS ready for BPA removal:
Impact of building rubbish in perimeter firebreaks
Building and other rubbish dumped in firebreaks on the outer edge of subdivisions, particularly in outer metropolitan councils, has been identified as a fire hazard by the CFA. Firefighting action has already been required with loss in that instance contained to fences and sheds.
The rubbish prevents mowing and maintenance of the firebreak allowing the hazard to grow. This fire hazard also undermines the CFA advice of walk two streets back for a grass fire.
If this issue is not addressed and required maintenance of firebreaks is uncertain, it may cause a fire authority’s response to a proposed BPA removal to be more cautious meaning less BPA is removed.
Responsibility for maintenance and enforcement varies but generally falls across the owners of the firebreak land, developers and councils.
Bushfire Attack Level (BAL)
What is BAL?
A Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) is a way of measuring the severity of a building's potential exposure to ember attack, radiant heat and direct flame contact.
There are six Bushfire Attack Levels that form part of the Australian Standard for construction of buildings in bushfire prone areas (AS 3959-2009):
- BAL-FZ (Flame Zone).
Why is BAL relevant?
Victorian building regulations require a BAL assessment to be undertaken for certain types of construction in bushfire prone areas. The outcome of a BAL assessment determines the construction standards to be used to better protect properties from the threat of bushfire as defined in Australian Standard 3959.
If a property is in the BPA, construction of a dwelling will need to meet the minimum standard for improved bushfire protection. The minimum standard is for BAL 12.5, but if the BAL is higher, construction will need to meet the standard for that higher BAL rating.
Getting a BAL assessment
A suitably qualified person can provide a BAL assessment for a property. Fire Protection Association Australia provides training and accreditation and may be able to provide a list of qualified persons: http://www.fpaa.com.au/
Applying for a modification
An individual lot owner has the option of applying to the Building Appeals Board (BAB) for a modification which, if granted, provides exemption from the requirement of the BPA to build to the minimum standard for improved bushfire protection. Below is some information you can make available to purchasers of lots in your development.
The Building Appeals Board information is at https://www.buildingappeals.vic.gov.au/
Use the Section 160 Modification Application form (you can find this under Modification and compliance applications). The fee is $124.60 and can take up to 12 weeks to process although it us usually closer to six weeks. Most BPA applications for review will be for a residential building - Modifications Class 1 or 10 residential buildings.
More information is provided in a guide and examples of a completed form on the BAB website.
The BAB can be contacted on Ph. 1300 421 082 or email: email@example.com
Note: The BPA construction requirement only applies to that part of your lot that is mapped as BPA. If no part of your building footprint falls within the area mapped as BPA, the BPA construction requirements do not apply and there is no need to apply for a modification. However, if any part of your building footprint falls within the area mapped as BPA your whole dwelling will need to be built to the relevant BAL and you should apply for a modification.
Page last updated: 25/07/22