Thousands of home builders in New South Wales will be spared the need to perform bushfire risk assessments when building homes in subdivided areas under laws which the state government says will save up to $800 on the cost of new housing.

In a joint announcement, State Planning Minister Pru Goward and Emergency Services Minister Stuart Ayres said new arrangements for building approvals on subdivided lots would mean that in cases where the Rural Fire Service (RFS) had undertaken an upfront assessment of bushfire risk at the subdivision stage, separate assessments would no longer be required when lodging development applications for construction of individual dwellings.

The changes will also allow the RFS to update Bushfire Prone Land Maps of new release areas to ensure these accurately reflect current risks rather than waiting for local councils to update these every five years.

Goward said the current system, which sees those building on bush bushfire-prone subdivisions having to undertake their own assessment even if the fire service has previously given the subdivision the tick of approval, adds around $800 to the cost of building a new home, and that removing this rule would eliminate duplication without compromising on safety.

“Proponents of subdivisions can now choose to have detailed bushfire assessments completed up front, which means home-builders won’t need to worry about lodging an individual bushfire report if strict conditions (see below) have been met,” Goward said.

“Obviously safety is our first priority, and these sensible changes will save families time and money simply by removing duplication when building a new home without compromising safety.”

According to the statement, the changes will only be allowed where:

  • The land is not at high risk of bushfire,
  • Approval has been given by the RFS which allows building in bushfire-prone areas, known as a Bushfire Safety Authority – this will now include a plan showing the bushfire attack levels and conditions future houses must meet,
  • A Post-Subdivision Bushfire Attack Level certificate has been issued, and
  • The authority in charge of approving the new home (i.e. the local council) is satisfied the building complies with any conditions that have been put in place by the RFS.

The government says the changes follow extensive consultation with councils and the industry.

The changes follow the Blue Mountains bushfires last year, which claimed two lives and destroyed 248 houses and other structures.