New bushfire-prone area maps for WA
There are new zones where bushfire-proof house codes are required. (Supplied: Bunbury Volunteer Fire Brigade)
Authorities have revised maps showing bushfire-prone areas in the state where new homes are required to adhere to tough new building standards in a bid to better protect them from flames.
The changes followed a backlash from the building industry and local governments, with concerns over a lack of consultation and the impact of the code on home values and construction costs.
Bushfire Risk Management executive manager Tim McNaught said a drying climate and population increases were exposing more people to bushfire risk.
“Driving north or south along the Mitchell or Kwinana Freeway you’d see there’s lots of development either side of the freeway starting to encroach into areas of bushfire-prone vegetation,” he said.
But despite the updates, building and construction industry lobby group Master Builders WA said the new codes were still creating uncertainty and confusion within the industry.
The group’s housing director Jason Robertson claimed there remained a lack of consultation with industry through the process and the bushfire risk assessments now required could more than double the time it takes to obtain a building permit.
“The concerns from our members are site and area specific, and the release of this map isn’t at this moment in time going to greatly reduce those concerns in any capacity,” he said.
“As an example, you may find that it may take a week or two for a Bushfire Attack Level Assessment (BAL) to be undertaken and that directly translates into a delay of granting of the building permits, not to mention the financial impost that takes.”
Concerns over DFES map accuracy
Mr Robertson said the satellite imagery on the DFES map was also out of date compared to that of the mapping resources industry uses, particularly for newer suburbs.
“For example, on Nearmaps for some allotments, it clearly articulates that the lot has been cleared, but that is not the case on the DFES map,” he said.
“Because of the uncertainty and lack of guidance from the state, local governments may turn around and say ‘We actually want a BAL assessment undertaken’ even though looking at Nearmaps and knowing the lot has been cleared the actual risk would come in low.”
He said the organisation wrote to Premier Colin Barnett last year unsuccessfully requesting a delay in the introduction of the new codes to allow more time for consultation.
WA Local Government Association President Lynne Craigie said in a statement she was pleased local governments were provided the opportunity to contribute to the updated map.
“Another positive factor is the proposed annual review process to ensure the mapping remains valid,” she said.
“We’ll be seeking feedback from our members to gauge the effectiveness of this process over time.”