What does strategic planning for bushfires involve?

Strategic planning for bushfire involves a process of identifying, assessing and responding to the bushfire hazard and risk when planning for future land use, development and settlement growth.

It helps build more resilient and safer communities. The overarching aim is to prioritise the protection of human life.

Why is strategic planning for bushfire important?

drawing of a hand drawing a settlement plan and a bushfire thought bubble

Strategic planning for bushfire is important as it can establish clear expectations around where to direct future land use and development and what planning policy responses are appropriate to address and minimise bushfire risks.

This big picture approach can achieve significant mitigation, fire prevention and environmental benefits upfront including:

  • avoiding bushfire risk in the first instance. If a proposal is in a high-risk location, bushfire protection measures may not be enough to mitigate or reduce the risk
  • addressing bushfire risk at the settlement rather than site scale
  • deciding appropriate areas for urban growth, including considering alternate locations for development
  • identifying when planned bushfire protection measures may be incompatible with other environmental objectives
  • designing settlements that minimise risk to people and build better resilience within the community.

What planning controls apply?

Clause 71.02-3 Integrated decision making and clause 13.02-1S Bushfire Planning are the key planning controls that apply in Victorian planning schemes.

Clause 71.02-3 explicitly requires the protection of human life to be the priority policy consideration in decision making when considering a proposal that has, or could have, a bushfire risk.

The State planning policy for bushfire at clause 13.02-1S sets out strategic and settlement planning directions that must be considered in strategic planning activities, including:

  • planning scheme reviews
  • Regional Growth Plans
  • local settlement plans
  • planning scheme amendments.

More information on the State bushfire policy

Clause 13.02-1S requires strategic planning and decision making to:

  • prioritise the protection of human life  
  • consider the landscape risk; development should be directed to lower risk locations and avoided in areas where there is an extreme bushfire risk
  • consider the effect of the proposal on bushfire risk and whether bushfire risk has been adequately addressed
  • consider alternate locations for development where the bushfire risk may be less or can be reduced through appropriate bushfire protection measures
  • consider the availability and accessibility of safe areas
  • consider the views of the relevant fire authority
  • consider whether the minimum radiant heat exposure benchmarks can be met
  • consider bushfire protection measures for the proposal and their effect on bushfire risk
  • consider any significant biodiversity values that need to be considered, what effects any risk mitigation will have and if the outcomes are acceptable.

Why is a landscape assessment so important?

Landscape scale factors drive bushfire behaviour. The landscape assessment does not predict the outcome of a bushfire event. It provides information that builds a better understanding of the bushfire risk at a given location and helps inform decision makers.

A landscape assessment directs where new development or settlement growth should occur and helps determine the suitability of a location for development.

It can also show the positive attributes of the site and its surrounds, and support proposals in areas suitable for development.

The bushfire hazard in the surrounding landscape must be assessed when preparing any strategic document. This involves:

  • identifying bushfire hazards in the broader landscape, up to 20-75km from a given location
  • considering the surrounding physical environment and how this could influence fire behaviour i.e. slope and topography
  • identifying bushfire scenarios that may impact the site, for example the direction a bushfire could approach, and the distance of a bushfire run to the location
  • assessing the likely influence of weather conditions, such as wind, during a bushfire event
  • identifying the availability of evacuation routes and safer areas
  • considering existing or proposed fire prevention and emergency management activities
  • deciding if the risk can be mitigated and incorporating appropriate bushfire protection measures in the design and/or policy response
  • the bushfire history in the area.

For guidance refer to Planning Permit Applications Bushfire Management Overlay Technical Guide 2017.

This includes information on how to prepare a landscape assessment, assess the bushfire risk in the landscape, and how to use this information to assess the viability of planning proposals. Whilst this document has a heavy development focus, it is also a good guide for preparing landscape assessments for strategic planning applications. Learn more about bushfire hazard

Resources 

The following resources are available to assist planning authorities.

Page last updated: 07/08/20