What is a bushfire hazard?

A bushfire hazard is created by:

  • fuel, such as leaf litter and vegetation, and may include forested areas, woodlands, shrublands, heathlands or grasslands
  • the potential for topography and weather conditions to contribute to fire behaviour.

The hazard can influence what a fire will do and how it will behave in the landscape. It is a source of potential harm or a situation with a potential to cause loss.

Drawing showing in forested area to show the bushfire hazard

What is bushfire risk?

Bushfire hazard and risk are different. Bushfire risk is the likelihood and consequence of a fire starting, spreading and impacting on people, property and the environment.

Why do I need to consider bushfire hazard?

Planning assumes that a bushfire could start in any bushfire hazard. Therefore, State planning policy at clause 13.02-1S of Victorian planning schemes requires that bushfire hazards be identified, considered and assessed in all decision making where there is the potential for bushfire. This applies to both strategic and statutory planning.

More information on the State planning policy

How does the planning and building system respond to bushfire hazard?

The Bushfire Prone Area (BPA) and Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO) hazard maps trigger specific building and planning requirements. Further consideration of the bushfire hazard at the site and landscape scale is required for all strategic and statutory planning proposals.

What is a bushfire hazard assessment?

A bushfire hazard assessment documents the various types of bushfire hazard.  

The assessment:

  • provides information on the bushfire hazard (including vegetation and slope).  Depending on the planning proposal a bushfire hazard assessment could be required at different scales from a site:
    • landscape (within approximately 20 to 75km)
    • local (within approximately 1km)
    • neighbourhood (within approximately 400m)
    • site (within 150m)
  • provides contextual information on a site or area.

This information is typically provided in a report, including spatial diagrams, plans and photos.

A bushfire hazard site assessment provides information on the bushfire hazard on and near to a site within 150m. The site assessment informs the appropriate bushfire protection measures such as defendable space, building construction requirements, water supply and access.

All planning permit applications need to provide a bushfire hazard site assessment, except where an application has been made for a single dwelling under a BMO schedule and some
simple non habitable outbuildings.

There is some scope for the council to vary or waive the requirement for a bushfire hazard site assessment under the BMO. However, this usually only applies to very minor applications, such as a small change to an approved plan that does not change any bushfire protection measures.

Refer to Planning Permit Applications Bushfire Management Overlay - Technical Guide on how to prepare a site assessment.

Templates are available

A bushfire hazard landscape assessment provides information to planning and responsible authorities on the bushfire hazard, potential bushfire behaviour and the impact of other relevant strategic considerations in the landscape that are likely to affect a given location such as the road network and nearby safer areas.

It not only acts an information tool but helps inform the appropriate response to an application, strategic plan or development.  For example, it helps determine the level of bushfire risk, assists with the assessment of siting and design and raises questions about access and egress options.  For new development in the BMO where there is a very high risk to bushfire it helps identify if enhanced bushfire protection measures may be required.

The purpose of the landscape assessment is not to predict the outcome of a bushfire event but to provide information that builds a better understanding of the bushfire risk at a location and to help make informed decisions.

This information is typically provided in report format including spatial diagrams, plans and photos.

All planning proposals including strategic planning and planning permits, will need to provide a landscape assessment, except:

  • a single dwelling permit application where a Bushfire Management Overlay schedule applies
  • a single dwelling permit application in an urban residential zone
  • where a Council waives the requirement under the BMO.

Refer to Planning Permit Applications Bushfire Management Overlay - Technical Guide on how to prepare a landscape assessment, assess the bushfire risk in the landscape, including how to use this information to assess the viability of planning proposals. While this document has a heavy development focus, it is also a good guide for preparing landscape assessments for strategic planning applications.

See information on why landscape assessments are important in strategic planning

What if I need help with my assessment?

Bushfire hazard identification can be complex.  A bushfire planning consultant can help you prepare your bushfire hazard assessment. A list of accredited bushfire planning and building practitioners is available on the Fire Protection Association Australia website (note: this is not a comprehensive list).

Page last updated: 24/08/20