Western Australia Bushfire measures being criticised; have you been given the right advice?

With the frequent development in the laws and regulations for planning and construction in bushfire prone regions, it is become increasingly difficult for landowners to keep track with these developments in the legislation. As Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) Assessors we speak to several clients on a daily basis who are a victim to poor guidance and therefore house several misconceptions regarding both the Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) Assessment process (in case of proposed developments) as well as risk management/fuel load reduction on their own site to prepare against fire season.

This misconception is mainly due to advice offered by the local government/councils for site specific risk rather than a general notice to all the community to install firebreaks and asset protection zones. Failure to compliance with these notices results in a fine up to $5000. However, not much instruction is given on how to achieve this compliance. In fact, some of our clients have even been encouraged in the cutting down of trees and completely clearing the lot which is not only unnecessary but in fact counter-productive. Trees can actually act as a shield from ember attack and high speed winds in case of a bushfire therefore increasing their bushfire risk rather than reducing it.  With the residents aloof on how to comply with the requirements, they go ahead and clear everything on their site. Imagine how detrimental it is to the local natural environment if everyone began clearing our native bush every time they had to build a shed. Our experience is that a lot of council’s fail to mention that it is only necessary to reduce undergrowth, leaf litter/dead trees, trim shrubs and carry out pruning of the trees rather than chopping them down altogether.

As a result of this lack of guidance, it becomes time-consuming and an expensive exercise when this is carried out once a year or every time the landowner wishes to develop on site. For this reason, they have to turn to private Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) Assessors for advice on the matter. Most of the time, this advice is usually sought too late in the design process when nothing can be done to alter the design. Sometimes, there is also a rift between the generic advice council/shires tell landowners and what their Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) Assessors tell them. As a result of this, the landowners are forced to waste their time and resources and potentially cause damage to the environment. Whenever enquiring about bushfire related matters, ensure that you are speaking to either an accredited BPAD Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) Assessor, a fire ranger or at least someone well versed in AS3959. We discourage blindly following advice without opting for a second opinion from an expert.

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