Fire rules push up country costs

21 June 2012

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 Australia -TOUGH bushfire planning regulations are adding thousands of dollars to the cost of country homes.

A Colac consultant engineer says the new rules can add about $40,000 to the cost of building on a small block if the block is near “hazardous vegetation”.

Michael Delahunty said the planning regulations, which became active last year, dictated that the dwelling’s defendable space must be wholly inside the property boundary.

The regulations apply to properties within the Bushfire Management Overlay. Mr Delahunty said the regulations should instead consider the distance to the hazardous vegetation, not the distance to the property boundary.

Properties need to be built to a Bushfire Attack Level which corresponds to a modelled level of bushfire exposure.

Mr Delahunty said a 50m-wide property built to a Bushfire Attack Level of -29 needed 27m of defendable space either side.

“That’s not possible, so the building has to be built to a higher BAL, such as -40,” Mr Delahunty said.

“The design and construction need to be changed to use more fire-resistant materials.”

Mr Delahunty said some builders had quoted a minimum of $40,000 to increase the BAL of a dwelling to -40, while one builder had quoted $30,000 for double-glazing windows on an extension.

“The standard of building should be controlled by the distance of the building to the hazard, not the distance to the property boundary,” he said.

Mr Delahunty said the issue was a problem in the Otways with small blocks near bush.

He said blocks on wide road reserves with bush on it could also be affected.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Planning and Community Development said the “Standard BF9 in the Bushfire Management Statement provides circumstances where off-site defendable space can be considered”.

She said this may include where “there is a reasonable assurance that the adjoining land will remain or continue to be managed in the same condition.”

Mr Delahunty said it was impossible to know how neighbours would manage their properties in future.

“But the alternative is building a concrete bunker in the middle of your block,” he said.

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