The Western Ausrtalian Government has announced a three stage action plan to address inconsistencies across the state’s bushfire frameworks, regulations, standards and mapping.

The $1.5 million Action Plan for Bushfire Framework Review 2019 will ensure that bushfire planning and building frameworks remain robust and based on scientific evidence, while also providing better recognition of specific landscapes and bushfire risks.

As part of the first stage of the plan, a new Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas will be gazetted by the Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner.

It will increase the minimum area of declared bushfire prone vegetation from one hectare to four hectares in the metropolitan Perth Central sub-region.

The change will apply across 19 local governments from Stirling to Belmont to Fremantle, resulting in a 30 per cent reduction in the number of properties declared bushfire prone and requiring additional planning and building costs.

The new map brings Westen Australia in line with other states including Victoria, which has a four hectare threshold, and only applies to properties in the Perth Central sub-region.

The Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner has also brought forward the scheduled five year review of the Mapping Standard for Bush Fire Prone Areas, which are used to inform the update of the map each year.

The review will aim to improve the quality of the mapping, ensure changes to the methodology are founded in science, and will examine the interaction of the map with other land uses.

A multi-agency working group will also conduct ground-truth assessments of land currently declared bushfire prone but which may pose a lower bushfire risk such as golf courses, verge strips and coastal dunes to re-evaluate their appropriateness for inclusion on the map.

Western Austalian Emergency Services Minister, Francis Logan, said the Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas is an important tool to ensure the safety of Western Australian communities, but it needed greater consistency and a more rigorous assessment on the ground.

“The WA Government has now allocated $1.5 million for the various agencies and the CSIRO to more thoroughly and accurately develop the standards and methodology that should be applied in managing bushfire risks,” Mr Logan said.

“The FES Commissioner has brought forward the scheduled five year review by one year to ensure that there is a joined-up approach to developing this new map and standards across the various agencies. 

“Thanks to advancements in technology and updates to aerial imagery, this new map will be more accurate than ever before, and will help address substantial differences in bushfire risks in metropolitan areas like Scarborough, compared to outer metro and regional areas such as the Perth Hills or Yallingup.

Stage two of the Action Plan is a $520,000 CSIRO study to develop a new mapping methodology. The intermittent release of updated maps expanding from the Perth Central sub-region, outer metropolitan and major regional centres with a new State-wide map expected to be released in late 2020.

Stage three will seek to reduce the regulatory burden by amending relevant policies in line with new mapping protocols, including State Planning Policy 3.7 – Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas and the Guidelines for Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas.

The Action Plan for Bushfire Framework Review 2019 has also considered the recommendations made by Dr Tony Buti MLA in the Bushfire Planning and Policy Review: A Review into the Western Australian Framework for Planning and Development in Bushfire Prone Areas (the Buti Report). 

Western Australian Planning Minister, Rita Saffioti, said  the review of the bushfire frameworks followed ongoing discussions with local governments, aggrieved landowners and those in the housing industry.

“While everyone acknowledges that safety is a top priority, the consensus was that the bushfire framework introduced in 2015 created some unintended consequences.

“The initial changes will better reflect the lower level of bushfire risk in significant built-up urban areas in the Perth Central sub-region.

“Changes to the way the Map is created means up to one third of properties previously designated as bushfire prone in the Perth Central sub-region will no longer require additional planning and building costs.”