GOAL Create and maintain a healthy community

OBJECTIVE — Maximise safety and perceptions of safety within the community

Significant social, environmental and economic losses can result from natural hazards. In the ACT, planning needs to respond to the risk of bush fires, floods, severe storms and high winds. Each has different requirements for risk mitigation. Land use planning can effectively reduce the risk from natural hazards and guide the appropriate management of such areas.


Following the bushfires of January 2003, The Inquiry into the Operational Response to the January 2003 Bushfires in the ACT (McLeod Report) made a number of recommendations about planning principles to minimise risk of fire hazard, including identifying the need to undertake further investigations into a Bushfire Abatement Zone, bushfire protection planning principles and declaration of a Bushfire Prone Area.

Current treatments, physical design standards and guidelines, and management approaches for Canberra’s urban edge, including planned future residential areas have been further investigated. A broadscale fire hazard assessment has been undertaken to determine the level of bushfire risk across the ACT and whether any areas in the ACT need to be declared as bushfire prone areas.

The Canberra Spatial Plan defines a Bushfire Abatement Zone based on the Strategic Direction for the city’s growth Map 9 (Bushfire Abatement Zone). The objective of the abatement area is to limit the fire fuels thus reducing the potential hazard.

Other hazards

Urban development is designed to be protected from the impacts of flood events, generally up to the 100 year Average Recurrence Interval (100 year ARI). This protection is provided by the construction of drainage systems including floodways, piped drainage systems, retarding basins, lakes and ponds, and the retention of vegetation within catchments.

Other natural hazards for the ACT include severe storms and strong winds which have the potential to affect a large number of dwellings.

There are utilities that are required to support the function of the city, including refuse areas, quarries, recycling stations and sewage treatment plants. These have the potential to impact on human health and safety and general amenity and wellbeing. Due to this potential hazard to the community, buffer areas are required around these public utilities.

Policy response
  • The Bushfire Abatement Zone (Map 9 – Bushfire Abatement Zone) will mitigate the risk of bushfire hazards to life and property within metropolitan Canberra. Fuel management within this zone will be site specific to respond to the threat and conserve the landscape qualities of the “bush capital”. The Bushfire Abatement Zone has been defined relating to both existing urban areas and future urban areas.
  • The Bushfire Prone Area will be declared for the ACT’s non-urban areas to ensure fire risk is assessed and appropriate building standards are applied under the Building Code of Australia.
  • Bushfire risk mitigation measures will be built into the design of all new development areas.
  • Urban development will not be permitted in areas that are at high risk of major natural hazards.
  • To ensure safety to the public and minimise health and amenity impacts from utilities required as a part of the urban infrastructure, utility buffer areas have been included (Map 11 – Clearance Zones).
  • A Bushfire Abatement Zone has been defined and principles for land planning, including land use restrictions and performance measures for fire hazard reduction will be implemented. These will be adopted by ACTPLA and the relevant land managers.
  • The Bushfire Prone Area will be declared and site specific assessments will be required for proposed residential buildings in accordance with the Building Code of Australia.
  • The investigations undertaken as a part of the detailed planning for new greenfields residential areas will continue to consider the potential fire, storm and flood hazards.
  • Careful planning and management is required to ensure the vegetation in the Molonglo Gorge does not act as an unacceptable fire risk.
  • Careful planning of Kowen Plateau and implementation of fuel management strategies will ensure that the western facing escarpment does not present an unacceptable danger to development on the plateau and beyond.
  • Minimise the risk to the community from bushfires.
  • Minimise the risk to the community from floods and other natural hazards.
  • Minimise the risk to the community from health and amenity impacts associated with human infrastructure.
Monitoring indicators
  • The land managed for fuel reduction in the Bushfire Abatement Zone.
  • The annual cost of property damaged by fire.
  • The annual cost of property damaged by a flood event or other natural hazard.
  • Health of population as affected by emissions from human infrastructure.