New WA building reforms to reduce bushfire damage

The cross government initiative will involve new mapping data and new building standards in bushfire-prone areas

The Western Australian Government has announced building reforms for new homes in bushfire-prone areas, intended to help save lives and protect property.

The reforms are a cross government response implemented by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES), Building Commission, WA Planning Commission and Department of Planning.

The DFES has prepared a map that identifies the bushfire-prone areas across the state, which will be updated on a yearly basis.

A ‘bushfire hazard assessment’ will be required for new homes in areas identified as ‘bushfire-prone’ to determine the level of construction standards for bushfire resistance to be applied, as identified in the Building Code of Australia and the Australian Standards AS3959.

These construction standards could include the placement of ember screens over evaporative air-conditioner units, window screens, the use of non-combustible or reduced risk building materials, and sealing off walls, eaves and roofs.

The new reforms - which will apply to building permits issued from April 8, 2016 - address key recommendations from the Keelty report into the 2011 Perth Hills bushfire. A four-month transition period will apply to bushfire building and planning requirements in new bushfire prone areas.

"Western Australia has suffered tragic losses from bushfires recently and while we will never eliminate the risk, we can all take action to reduce it and improve the chance of survival and protect property," said emergency services minister, Joe Francis.

"If you are planning to build a new house in a bushfire-prone area, these reforms will guide you through the steps you need to take to help keep your family safe. The new bushfire-prone area map will become a critical part of emergency services' operations."