New standards to help protect homes from bushfires

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Prior to the new standards, residents could clear native vegetation around their property for firewood, but not for the purpose of reducing bushfire risks. Picture: Anita McInnes

LANDOWNERS and householders in bushfire prone areas can now clear vegetation within 20m of their property due to new bush fire risk treatment standards starting today.

Fire and Emergency Services commissioner Darren Klemm AFSM has published new bush fire risk treatment standards reducing red tape for landowners and occupiers within bushfire prone areas, allowing them to make their properties safe by clearing vegetation within 20m of their property without breaching other state or local government laws.

Provided residents comply with the new standards, they now have the legal authority to create a defendable space around their property, which research shows is one of the most effective methods of protecting properties from bushfires.

The standards apply to all bushfire-prone areas of Western Australia with the exception of areas with significant environmental or heritage value.

These areas have been excluded from the standards to ensure that the state’s unique environment is not adversely affected.

It will be the responsibility of landowners and occupiers to ensure that these standards apply to their property before undertaking any clearing or modification of vegetation.

Planned burning is also not permitted as a form of clearing under the standards and will still require a permit under the Bush Fires Act 1954.

Mr Klemm said mitigation on private property has previously been subject to a convoluted mix of laws and regulations across Western Australia and owners or occupiers who cleared their land to reduce bushfire risk were potentially open to prosecution.

He said the new standards would remove inconsistencies created by overlapping laws and empower the community to protect their properties from bushfires.

“Research shows that clearing vegetation near your house is one of the most important things you can do to help protect it from a bushfire,” he said.

“However, prior to these standards being introduced, residents could clear native vegetation around their property for firewood, but not for the purpose of reducing bushfire risks.

“This underlined the inconsistencies that existed throughout the state and demonstrated the need for a clear set of principles that prioritise community safety.”

He said the standards were consistent with the Royal Commission’s recommendation that all governments review processes for vegetation management and hazard reduction.

They also addressed a key observation of the Ferguson Inquiry into the 2016 Waroona Fire, which identified the need for state agencies to consider policy options for the clearing of vegetation by owners.

“The consultation process that took place during the development of these standards was extremely comprehensive and we have struck an appropriate balance between protecting both the community and WA’s unique environment.”

The introduction of these standards were made possible through the Bush Fires Amendment Act 2016, which allows the FES Commissioner to issue voluntary bush fire risk treatment standards.

The bush fire risk treatment standards can be found at dfes.wa.gov.au/bushfire/prepare/