Tougher building rules for bushfire areas

      Tougher building rules for bushfire areas

16 March 2009

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Australia — The Tasmanian Premier has announced plans to strengthen regulations covering homes built in bushfire-prone areas.

David Bartlett says there will be lessons for Tasmania from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s bushfire disaster, but he wants to set the ball rolling now.

“The first step will be to define what is a bushfire-prone area, because that will trigger the application of national building codes for new homes in bushfire areas,” he said.

“But if we apply and designate bushfire-prone areas, then the Australian building codes for bushfire-prone areas will need to apply in those areas, and any changes to those building codes that might come out of the Royal Commission would apply in those areas,” he said.

He says a priority is a uniform planning schedule for the state, covering all new homes so differences between municipalities are removed.

He has not ruled out applying some of the proposed changes to existing homes.

The Premier says he will consult, and try to keep costs down.

“Having said that, what price do you put on human life?”

Allan Garcia from the Local Government Association says the Premier’s plan is achievable, but will mean people planning to build a home in a fire prone area will need to have professional risk assessment of their property.

The Housing Industry Association’s Stuart Clues supports measures like minimum cleared areas around homes, but wants expensive options like concrete bunkers ruled out.

“That’s where the devil in the detail is going to be.”

The Tasmania Fire Service says it supports efforts to improve safety in vulnerable areas.

Pieter Hemelrijk from the Richmond Brigade says he often sees houses which are not appropriate for such locations.

“Any changes to bushfire-prone areas to protect occupants and houses and livestock, and such, I’d certainly be in favour of.”

Australia’s peak emergency services body has applauded the plans.

The Australian Fire and Emergency Authorities Council says it will help bring Tasmania into line with regulations in other states but wants to see the regluations governing how closely homes can be built to vegetation tightened.

Naomi Brown from the Council has told ABC Local Radio it will continue to lobby state governments to require more space between vegetation and homes.

“There needs to be a space around the house what we call a defendable zone, the standard talks about ten metres,” he said.

“I think you probably need more space between the vegetation and your house.

“It’s that area that we have some dispute about, but Tasmania along with the rest of Australia would still be better off by calling up the standard.”

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