Disclaimer: These comments are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the current opinions and policies of the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia.
In recent years, state governments have recognised the need for local communities to be better prepared for bush fire events. The recent, life-taking devastation of wild fires in places like Yarloop, Kinglake and Esperance have prompted a variety of measures designed to save both property and lives. One of these measures has been to recognise areas that are prone to bush fire risk and identifying properties that lie within these areas.
Most of us urban dwellers think little of the risk of wild fire, thinking it’s a regional or rural problem where there’s an abundance of native bushland. Well, think again.
These identified fire-risk zones are part of the city landscape too with most of Perth’s suburbs affected by it. For those home owners whose property fall within these zones, the impact can be significant especially when it comes time to renovate, add an extension or subdivide. This is because homes built within these zones (even if a small portion of the land is within the zone) must be built to a specification that is designed to combat and survive a bushfire. All elements of a newly constructed building, extension and renovation are affected and assessed in accordance with strict Bush Fire Attack Level (BAL) assessments to an Australian Standard under the Build Code. It follows that the construction costs to comply with the Standard are higher than normal.
It makes sense that we apply a sensible approach to our choice of building if living in, say, Dwellingup but do we really need a fire-retardant home in parts of local streets like Swanbourne, Daly, Montreal, Keeling, Bellion, Newmarket, McCombe, Burns and dozens more?
As our urban landscape changes and we create new areas of housing alongside public open spaces that are considered bush-fire prone, many land owners will be confronted with extraordinarily high building costs even though there may have been no history at all of there ever being a bush fire nearby. Established parts of our city are affected with any home opposite a large bush reserve likely to be impacted (think Frederick Samson Reserve).
I would imagine the good folk living along the elevated section of Swanbourne Street or the southern half of Daly Street have no idea they fall within bush fire prone areas and that the value of their property is affected accordingly due to the cost of improving them.
Go to https://maps.slip.wa.gov.au/landgate/bushfireprone/ and check if your home is affected.
by Hayden Groves
REIA Deputy President