Homes Are Still Being Built in Areas With High Fire Risk

July 7, 2020 Updated: July 7, 2020

Houses are still being built in areas at significant risk of bushfires and other natural disasters, a royal commission has been told.

A number of groups argue poor planning decisions are allowing inappropriate property development where there is an unacceptable risk from natural disasters.

“Although land-use planning has improved in respect to reducing disaster risk reduction, there is still clear evidence of recent planning decisions placing communities at a known and obvious risk of disaster,” the Insurance Council of Australia said.

The Property Council of Australia said a lack of national, comprehensive data and mapping has undermined understanding of natural hazard risk by governments and the community.

“This has contributed to poor planning decisions leading to property development in areas of significant risk,” it said in a submission to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements.

The commission will on July 8 examine the extent to which natural hazard risk is incorporated into decisions about where people live, how land is used and the types of buildings that are constructed.

NSW’s Bega Valley Shire Council noted the recent bushfires affected many properties that were not previously considered to be bushfire prone.

“The current bushfire-prone land maps and bushfire attack levels do not consider the impacts of climate change on fire frequency and intensity,” the council said.

Homes in fire-prone areas must be built to the required bushfire attack level, a way of measuring the severity of a building’s potential exposure to ember attack, radiant heat and direct flame contact.

Insurance Australia Group said land that is, or becomes, an unacceptable risk from hazards such as bushfires, cyclones, severe storms and floods should not be zoned for residential or commercial use.

Land-use planning is largely the responsibility of the states and territories.

The commission will hear from state and territory representatives, peak bodies, industry groups and academics on Wednesday.

Megan Neil in Melbourne