Landholders often ask us about the impact of removing vegetation for bushfire protection on covenanted land.
Victoria is one of the most bushfire prone regions in the world. Victorian planning laws have responded to the threat of fire, particularly after the 2009 Black Saturday fires and the Royal Commission, by establishing a framework to manage bushfire risk. A key consideration within this framework is vegetation near houses or other buildings which can add to the ‘fuel load’ of a bushfire and therefore increase the risk of damage to property and people.
These FAQs are intended to provide general information and the requirements about clearing native vegetation are complex and can vary from property to property. For more detailed information contact your local council or local Country Fire Authority, CFA.
Your covenant deed allows you to manage vegetation for reasonable fire prevention. Vegetation removal for such purposes is allowed in line with relevant legislation about clearance distances, you can refer to your local government’s guidelines for more information.
Fuel reduction and appropriate bushfire-preparedness are the responsibility of you the landholder, or the tenant if the land is leased. Information about bushfire preparedness is available on the CFA website.
The terms of the conservation covenant allow you to remove native vegetation for reasonable fire protection purposes or if required by law. Generally permits are required to remove native vegetation and we suggest you talk to your local council to find out if you can legally clear vegetation on your property.
In Victoria a planning permit is generally required to remove native vegetation; however there are exemptions to this requirement, including removing vegetation for the purposes of bushfire protection.
In addition, properties in areas of Victoria that are particularly exposed to bushfire risk may be affected by a Bushfire Management Overlay, BMO. The BMO was introduced in 2011 in response to the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission. The BMO introduces new planning requirements and exemptions for vegetation clearing for bushfire protection. It imposes requirements for bushfire risk mitigation for new buildings and other activities that require a permit, and allows some removal of native vegetation around existing dwellings to mitigate bushfire risk.
You can check if your property is covered by a BMO by checking with your local council or through the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning website.
Your local council can give you specific advice about relevant planning provisions and how they affect your property.
If your property is subject to a BMO, you are generally not required to do anything for bushfire protection unless you propose to do something new that requires a permit. If a permit is required, ie for a new house, it could be granted providing the owners agree to create ‘defendable space’.
Your council can advise you more about your responsibilities.
If your property is not affected by a BMO, you may still be able to clear native vegetation for bushfire protection purposes, but this will require a planning permit, unless an exemption applies.
Exemptions may be available:
- to create defendable space within specified distances of a dwelling or other structures 10, 30 or 50 metres of a building or for any vegetation within a specified distance of an existing fence on a boundary between properties in different ownership.
- for specified fire protection purposes including fuel reduction burning, creating a fire break, or removing overhanging branches and electric line clearance.
Your council can provide more information.
Defendable space refers to the area of land around a building where vegetation is managed to reduce the risks of bushfire. It comprises an inner zone, which is the area immediately around the house, and an outer zone, which is the managed area between the inner zone and the surrounding vegetation.
The amount of defendable space varies depending on a number of things, including the type of vegetation on the property and the slope of the property. The calculation of the area of defendable space for a given property is a technical assessment which must be done by someone with appropriate qualifications. A qualified bushfire consultant can determine the area of defendable space you are required or allowed to create.
Your local CFA and council can give you more information about bushfire protection on your land. To find your local CFA have a look at their website, and to find your local council see the Know Your Council webpage.
Trust for Nature can provide you with information about what is allowed under your conservation covenant, including understanding the environmental values of native vegetation on your land. You can contact us on (03) 8631 5888