What is the regulatory framework?
The planning and building systems regulate land use and development to ensure bushfire hazard and risk are considered and managed.
The Planning Policy Framework and other planning scheme provisions provide the basis for how planning schemes and planning decisions assess and respond to bushfire.
The building system ensures that bushfire protection is considered as part of the building permit.
Read more about the planning provisions and the building regulations below.
How the planning and building system works
The planning and building system requirements typically influence new land use and development.
The systems work together in an integrated way at the state and site levels. This avoids regulatory duplication and ensures effective development outcomes.
Key elements of the integrated system are illustrated in the diagrams below.
View diagrams on the Integrated Planning and Building Regulatory Framework for Bushfire in Victoria:
Bushfire planning policy and objectives
The Planning Policy Framework includes policies that provide the context for decision making by planning and responsible authorities in relation bushfire.
Clause 13.01-1S Natural Hazard and Climate Change
Clause 13.01-1S seeks to minimise the impacts of natural hazards and adapt to the impacts of climate change through risk-based planning. It ensures, that hazard assessments, risk assessments, strategic planning and planning applications have regard to all natural hazards and their risks.
Clause 13.02-1S Bushfire planning
Clause 13.02-1S, the state bushfire policy provides specific strategies that guide and direct decision making. They have been developed over many years in response to the increasing risk of bushfires in Victoria.
The objective of the policy is to strengthen the resilience of settlements and communities to bushfire through risk-based planning that prioritises the protection of human life.
The policy must be applied when land is:
- within a designated bushfire prone area;
- within a Bushfire Management Overlay; or
- proposed to be used or developed in a way that may create a bushfire hazard.
Clause 71.02-3 Integrated decision making
Clause 71.02 sets out the operation of the Planning Policy Framework. It requires that planning and responsible authorities in their decision making must prioritise the protection of human life over all other policy objectives or issues in bushfire affected areas.
The protection of human life cannot be balanced or traded off against other objectives or issues.
This clause applies to:
- strategic planning proposals
- planning policy development
- planning scheme amendments
- planning permit applications.
Clause 13.02-1S, the state bushfire policy, has a specific objective that guides and directs planning decision making.
The state bushfire policy objective is:
To strengthen the resilience of settlements and communities to bushfire through risk based planning that prioritises the protection of human life.
It reflects the:
- Victorian government’s commitment to creating a safer state
- important role of planning decision making which can avoid and reduce the risk of bushfire to people and communities.
- a rigorous assessment of bushfire before decisions are made
- growth is directed to low risk areas
- that development considers and includes bushfire protection measures in all stages of the planning process.
Bushfire strategies in the Planning Policy Framework
Clause 13.02-1S has specific strategies that guide and direct planning decision making to prioritise the protection of human life (the objective of state bushfire policy).
There are four key strategies:
1. Ensuring bushfire is considered whenever there is a bushfire hazard
The state bushfire policy requires the best available science be applied to identify vegetation, topographic and climatic conditions that create 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 bushfire or grassfire will do and how it will behave as it is driven by the environment and weather across the landscape.
The Victorian Government, working in partnership with local councils and fire authorities, has used bushfire hazard information to designate bushfire prone areas under the Building Act 1993 and the Bushfire Management Overlay in planning schemes. These designated areas ensure the bushfire hazard triggers planning and building permit requirements and that bushfire is considered in decision making.
The bushfire hazard is considered in hazard assessments prepared at the time planning and building decisions are made. This ensures that bushfire is considered from the outset to determine if a proposal should proceed and, if it does, what bushfire protection measures should be included.
These hazard assessments include:
- Bushfire hazard landscape assessment. This considers how the extent of the bushfire hazard may affect a location and the things that provide bushfire protection (for example, fuels within settlements, the road network, and places of shelter). It is required to be prepared in certain circumstance, such as when making decisions on strategic planning projects, planning scheme amendments and planning applications (some exemptions apply).
- Bushfire site assessment. This considers the classified vegetation and slope in the area surrounding the site. It helps determine the required area of defendable space and setbacks. It can also be used to assist in determining the appropriate construction standard for development or whether radiant heat exposure benchmarks have been met in larger scale developments. It is required when making decisions on strategic planning projects, planning scheme amendments and most decisions on planning applications.
For more information:
2. Directing the location of new use, development and subdivision based on bushfire considerations
The state bushfire policy strategies ensure new uses, developments and subdivisions are directed, wherever possible, to low risk locations and areas that can protect human life before, during and after a bushfire.
Low risk locations are areas that:
- will not be subject to large landscape-scale bushfires
- have safe areas, where people can safely move to and that provide protection from the harmful effects of flame contact and radiant heat
- have land that will receive radiant heat at lower levels
- can demonstrate that proposed bushfire protection measures can be adequately implemented. For example, vegetation can be managed on an ongoing basis
- can demonstrate that by applying bushfire protection measures, bushfire can be managed.
Deciding on a low risk location will mean a thorough assessment of all potential alternative locations for development. This needs to happen at the landscape and settlement scale. For example, when undertaking strategic planning and large scale development proposals. This will ensure that new use, development and subdivision are sited in appropriate locations. A bushfire hazard landscape assessment and bushfire hazard site assessment inform these decisions.
3. Planning proposals must assess and apply bushfire protection measures
All planning proposals including strategic planning documents, planning scheme amendment and planning permit applications must identify and include bushfire protection measures in the design response wherever there is a bushfire hazard. They must also demonstrate that they can be adequately implemented.
Bushfire protection measures ensure that development can better withstand the effects of a bushfire event and help ensure risk to existing and future residents, property and community infrastructure is not increased. Importantly they themselves make a development suitable.
A range of bushfire protection measure requirements are set out in different parts of the planning scheme. Their suitability and application will be dependent on the nature of the proposal. They can be passive (for example, the layout of buildings), or active (vegetation management).
Applying bushfire protection measures should never be delayed to later decisions or approvals. This is particularly relevant for strategic planning proposals and planning scheme amendments. Bushfire must be considered and included at the earliest stages of design and approved as part of the decision process.
The need for bushfire protection measures arise from the outcomes of bushfire hazard assessments. Bushfire protection measures should give the decision maker confidence that bushfire can be managed in the ongoing use of the land and that the planning approval is appropriate.
The suitability of a location for development should always be considered first. Bushfire protection measures should only be applied to build resilience and to better manage the residual (or remaining) bushfire risk once it is decided the location is suitable.
4. Achieve no increase in risk to human life and reduce risks where possible through effective decision making
Planning decisions aim not to increase the bushfire risk to existing and future residents, property and community infrastructure.
This is achieved over time through many planning decisions that consider and apply the state bushfire strategies and other bushfire planning provisions. These decisions strengthen the resilience of settlements and communities to bushfire and prioritise the protection of human life.
The state bushfire policy is explicit that proposals must only be approved where a landowner or proponent has properly considered and assessed bushfire hazards and demonstrated that risk to life can be mitigated and reduced through bushfire protection measures.
Effective decision making will often be supported by the advice of bushfire and emergency management experts.
The state bushfire policy requires decision makers to consult early with emergency management agencies and the relevant fire authority to receive their recommendations on appropriate bushfire responses.
This is particularly important for strategic and policy proposals, and planning scheme amendments. This includes Victoria’s fire authorities (Country Fire Authority, Fire Rescue Victoria and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning), and local councils through their municipal fire prevention functions.
Exemptions, new development and mapping
Planning schemes include planning permit exemptions for some buildings and works and vegetation removal to support the state bushfire policy objective to prioritise the protection of human life.
They enable landowners to prepare their property for bushfire without needing a planning permit. They include:
- clearing vegetation around existing homes to create defendable space (10/30 and 10/50 rule)
- clearing vegetation along a fence line
- private bushfire shelters.
Based on the state bushfire strategies and the Building Act 1993, Victoria’s planning and building systems apply specific requirements to certain new uses, development and subdivision. The following requirements apply:
Clause 44.06 Bushfire Management Overlay
The Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO) regulates development on land with the potential to be affected by extreme bushfires. All BMO areas fall within a Bushfire Prone Area.
The BMO includes a statutory provision in planning schemes and a map showing where the provisions apply to land. Most development in the BMO requires a planning permit. The following issues will need to be considered: bushfire hazards, fire behaviour, building siting, defendable space and vegetation management, on-site static water supply and emergency vehicle access. In some circumstances where the development is associated with vulnerable or large groups of people, emergency management planning will be important in decision making.
Local planning schemes can include BMO schedules. These specify development requirements tailored to suit the local bushfire risk. A schedule is labelled as BMO followed by a number (e.g. BMO2) on planning maps and in planning schemes.
Find a BMO schedule in a local planning scheme at Planning Schemes Online
Clause 53.02 Bushfire Planning
Clause 53.02 Bushfire Planning sets out the bushfire protection measures and other requirements for development in the BMO. The application of bushfire protection measures, such as building siting, design and defendable space, ensures it responds to the bushfire hazard and protects human life.
The Building Act 1993 and Building Regulations 2018 specify requirements for some new buildings in designated bushfire prone areas (BPA). It is used to ensure that bushfire protection is considered as part of the building permit.
Bushfire construction requirements apply, referred to as the Bushfire Attack Level (BAL), to sensitive land uses such as residential buildings, schools and hospitals in the BPA.
A site assessment will be required to determine the BAL.
Where the site assessment is done as part of the planning permit, a second assessment is not required at the building permit stage.
The Bushfire Prone Area (BPA) and Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO) hazard maps trigger planning and building requirements. These maps are approved and updated by the Minister for Planning.
Bushfire mapping considers the location, size and type of vegetation (fuel) in a given area and is informed by the best available science. Mapping criteria identifies whether an area should be designated BPA, and if a BMO should apply.
Hazard map reviews
The department has committed to working with local councils, emergency services and other key stakeholders to ensure the BPA and BMO maps are accurate and as up to date as possible.
The BPA mapped is reviewed twice a year on request by developers and councils. It was last reviewed and updated on 7 September 2020.
The BMO is reviewed twice a year on request by a property owner if they believe the bushfire hazard no longer exists. An example is if a plantation has been harvested and returned permanently to pasture.
For more information:
Page last updated: 25/01/22