THE Western Australian Government last week announced building reforms for new homes in bushfire areas to help save lives and protect property.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services has prepared a map which identifies the bushfire-prone areas across the State. A bushfire hazard assessment will be required for new homes in areas identified as bushfire-prone on the map.
The assessment will 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.
Emergency Services Minister Joe Francis said the reforms aimed to limit the impact of bushfires on the community, wherever possible.
"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," Mr Francis said.
"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."
Planning Minister John Day said the assessment would identify the bushfire hazard level and the Australian Standards to be applied when the new home is constructed.
"These standards are used across Australia and already apply in some WA local government areas including Armadale, Busselton, Kalamunda, Mundaring and Cockburn," Mr Day said.
Commerce Minister Michael Mischin said 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 address key recommendations arising 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.
The package of reforms will be gazetted on 7 December 2015 and will apply to building permits issued from 8 April 2016. More information is available from the Department of Planning website at <http://www.planning.wa.gov.au/bushfire>.