Changes to the Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO)

On 31 July 2014 the Minister for Planning approved sweeping changes to the State’s bushfire planning laws. The changes are packaged as ‘practical reforms for building in bushfire designated areas’ and are intended to make it easier for landowners and Councils to prepare and assess applications under the Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO).

The BMO provisions were introduced to the Victorian Planning Provisions on 18 November 2011 and replaced the former Wildfire Management Overlay.  These controls were designed in response to the recommendations of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission and introduced significant stringency in the assessment and mitigation of bushfire risk.

The recent changes to the BMO and related planning controls reduce much of the stringency in the original controls and provide a more performance based approach to the assessment and mitigation of bushfire risk. Key aspects of these reforms include:

  • Full adoption of AS.3959-2009 – Construction of buildings in bushfire prone areas (AS3959) as the methodology for assessing and modelling of bushfire attack
  • Reducing the amount of defendable space that is needed to achieve each Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) by removing the ‘outer zone’ of defendable space. This is a consequence of fully adopting AS3959
  • Providing greater scope to build, replace and extend a dwelling in residential based zones including the ability to choose how much defendable space to provide
  • Allowing adjoining land to be included as defendable space where there is assurance that it is already appropriately managed – including within new subdivisions
  • Removing the need to obtain a planning permit or provide native vegetation offsets for the removal of vegetation to create defendable space for new buildings (in addition to existing buildings)
  • Enabling the use of a private bushfire shelter to reduce the BAL of a dwelling in residential based zone
  • Introducing more extensive permit exemptions for sheds and outbuildings
  • Reducing the status of the Country Fire Authority (CFA) as a Mandatory Referral Authority to a Recommending Referral Authority for dwellings and subdivisions in the BMO. This empowers Council to make decisions on these applications types which may differ from the advice provided by the CFA.

Despite the significant relaxation of the BMO provisions it will still be necessary and desirable for a majority of land owners to engage a suitably experienced bushfire consultant to prepare a comprehensive application that responds to the requirements of the BMO and to work cooperatively with Council and the CFA to secure the best possible outcome.

With extensive experience working in local government and with the CFA, Foresite Planning & Bushfire Consultants are uniquely placed to provide this service.