We’re here to help make planning and rebuilding easier for you. We’ll work across the Victorian Government and with councils to help support your recovery journey.
Our Rebuilding Support Program is a series of services, supports and grants that aim to help you rebuild successfully – and safely.
For those with more complex sites, additional support is available.
Rebuilding after a bushfire is a big job. Everybody has different circumstances and will make different choices – and that’s okay.
We have prepared an information pack to help you make informed choices in planning, designing and commissioning your rebuild. It may also be useful if you want to know how to make existing buildings more resilient to bushfire.
It will help you understand the rebuilding process, including the sorts of building, design and other professional services that you are likely to need along the way, and help you think about how the rest of your site should be landscaped or managed.
The guide is general in nature and covers all the basics, but every site and rebuild is different. To make sure all your questions are answered, we recommend you make an appointment with the Rebuilding Support Services.
To find out more about planning, read the following information pack or download the PDF version.
Support for you
We want to make sure you have all the support and advice you need to help you make the best decisions and help you navigate the planning and rebuilding process.
Rebuilding Support Services
If you haven’t done so already, please make an appointment with the Rebuilding Support Services. This is a free service operated by council and delivered by council and BRV.
Rebuilding Support officers are on hand to help you through every step of the process and ensure you have access to all the advice and support you need.
The Rebuild Support Service can be accessed by contacting:
- In East Gippsland Shire
- In Towong Shire
Through this service, delivered by council and Bushfire Recovery Victoria, property owners can get support to navigate planning and building permit processes, including:
- a copy of the completed preliminary bushfire hazard assessment – funded by the Victorian Government on behalf of property owners, saving them up to $3000
- access to planners, environmental health officers and building surveyors to assist with technical advice to support the permit application process
- more than $20,000 in rebates for other essential assessments and infrastructure required as part of the rebuilding process, such as soil tests, geotechnical risk assessments, land capability (wastewater) assessments, and installation of septic tanks and new rainwater tanks
You can also visit or contact your local BRV or council Recovery Hub.
Case Support Program
Starting this journey can be difficult, so you can also check in with your Victorian Bushfires Case Support worker or contact the Case Support Program by calling . This service can connect you to any personal support you may need.
The steps in short
The concept phase
Your site is cleaned up. Hazardous materials are removed. Now you can assess your site properly and start making your plans.
These are just some of the questions and issues you’ll be dealing with in this phase:
- the location of your home on your site
- the design of your home and its construction method
- your budget for design and construction
- how to make your home more resilient to bushfire
- meeting the construction requirements for bushfire-prone areas
- landscaping features on your site
- engaging the skills of experts: e.g. builders and architects
It’s worthwhile to engage with council early on, even before you submit your documentation, to understand what you’ll need for the job ahead. You can do this with assistance from Rebuilding Support Services.
At the end of this process, you’ll be able to produce a concept plan for your whole site. This plan will give you confidence that you have identified all the main elements you need to make it all work and you are clear about what information you need to move to the next phase: planning and building permits.
The permit phase
The need to obtain planning and building permits is an important step. They are essential for financing and if you ever seek to sell the property – either with an approved permit, or after the development is completed with a certificate of occupancy.
Most importantly, they give you the green light to go ahead with your rebuild. In this stage, you’ll need to:
- Develop detailed plans of what you intend to build and finalise other supporting information to seek permits and approvals.
- Lodge applications for planning, building and any other approvals that may be required.
- Obtain final quotations, contract a registered builder, appoint a building surveyor, and engage any other specialists if required.
- Seek legal advice on contracts if you are unsure. Read the information at in relation to quotations, contracts and consumer protection.
The construction phase
This stage explains itself – but there are still several steps you need to undertake while the house gets built. These include:
- mandatory construction inspections at key stages of the build
- implementing any other bushfire risk mitigation measures or conditions that are part of your planning and building permits (for example, firefighting water supply tanks)
- obtaining occupancy permits through your building surveyor
The completion phase
It’s time to move into your new home. Here are the things you’ll be managing once you occupy the building:
- landscaping and other site management tasks, such as ensuring your defendable space is maintained
- implementing any other bushfire risk mitigation measures that formed part of your application
- checking to ensure that any future works do not undo the effort put into creating a more bushfire resilient house – e.g. do not locate flammable things near the house or create holes that allow embers to get into the house
- reviewing, updating and maintaining your fire preparation plan and your bushfire survival plan
House designs can be simple or complex, and all can be designed to be energy efficient and fire resilient. But there are benefits in adopting simple designs, thinking carefully about how and where windows and other glass are used, and making the most of your site’s natural advantages.
Design and resilience
Simple shapes are best as they allow the smoothest flow of wind over and around the house. This minimises the build-up of embers in corners where they are at greater risk of causing ignition.
Try and minimise open, exposed gutters that retain leaf litter. Box gutters should also be avoided. Avoid putting features on roofs that can trap embers.
More tips for resilience include:
- building on a slab. If not, implement a fully enclosed underfloor
- using non-combustible facades, cladding, windows, doors
- locating windows up off the ground
- using paved areas rather than decks
- single story is preferable
Any new residential building will need to embrace energy efficiency in its design as a key requirement of the National Construction Code.
Energy-efficient designs are well insulated and assembled to minimise uncontrolled air leakage through the structure, and they utilise natural airflow to moderate indoor temperatures. These solutions mean lower maintenance and higher bushfire resilience.
Ideally houses should be sited away from vegetation and be oriented on a block to face North to make to most of good natural lighting and solar energy for winter warmth.
Siting a building or settlement away from the bushfire hazard is the most effective way to minimise bushfire risk. Ideally, development should be sited on flat land away from unmanaged vegetation and close to public roads.
To make decisions about the location of your building, you should:
- consider slope, access, aspect, orientation and vegetation
- avoid and minimise the removal of vegetation
- site new buildings as far from the bushfire hazard as practicable
- minimise the need for long access and exit routes through areas of bushfire hazard
- locate buildings as close as practicable to property entrances
- provide safe access and exit for emergency services
There are two approaches to construction: traditional or prefab/modular.
The traditional approach is for a structure to be erected on the development site from the ground up, using timber or steel framing with brick or other suitable external cladding, or solid brick or concrete walls. Depending on the site conditions, concrete slabs, or sub floors on posts or other foundations, are all possible.
Steel framed construction is an alternative to timber framed construction. There are specific standards for steel-framed construction in bushfire-prone areas with some advantages due to the non-flammability of steel framing and resistance to termite attack.
In modular construction, preparation of the prefabricated elements can proceed in a factory setting while site preparation and footings are prepared on-site. There is potential time saving because both parts of the build process can occur simultaneously and preparation of modular units in a factory is not impacted by weather.
Site access for potentially large premade components, trucks and crane access will be an important consideration that should be addressed in the conceptual and planning phase. Consider the route that delivery trucks will take including road and bridge widths and load capacity.
Builders and designers can provide advice on what approach to general construction makes the best overall sense and is the most practical, efficient, resilient and cost-effective for your site.
Bushfire Attack Level (BAL)
In addition to energy efficiency and overall structural soundness, construction requirements in bushfire-prone areas are determined based on the bushfire attack level that is likely.
The BAL is a nationwide approach to determine the severity of a building’s potential exposure to ember attack, radiant heat and direct flame contact.
Designing and building houses that are resistant to ember attack is fundamental to bushfire resilience.
The BAL is measured using levels of radiant heat, expressed in kilowatts per square metre. To put it more simply: the higher the number, the more severe the potential exposure.
The BAL is based on:
- Your location.This will include how many directions a bushfire may approach from as well as road access in and out of the property.
- The type of vegetation on your property. There is no such thing as fireproof vegetation as it can all burn in extreme fire conditions. The denser the vegetation, the more intense the fire zone is. If there is a mixture of trees, shrubs, grasses and leaf litter, this can have a kindling effect allowing the fire to build.
- How far your house is from vegetation. The closer the property is to vegetation, the higher the fire risk. Research into Australian bushfires has indicated that around 85 per cent of house destruction happens within 100 metres of bushland.
- The slope of your property. The topography affects the speed and spread of a fire. Fires burn faster uphill. The steeper the slope, the quicker the fire. When moving upslope, the fire dries out the vegetation ahead making it easier to burn. This is often a challenge, as some with to site a home at the top of a slope to maximise views.
How a BAL result is classified
There are six BAL classifications which form part of the Australian Standard for construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas. The classifications indicate the materials and construction methods you’ll be required to use in your build. The six classifications are:
- BAL low: Insufficient risk to warrant construction requirements – very low risk
- BAL 12.5: Ember attack – low risk
- BAL 19: Increasing levels of ember attack and burning debris along with exposure to a heat flux of up to 19kW/m²
- BAL 29: Increasing levels of ember attack and burning debris along with increasing exposure to a heat flux of up to 29kW/m²
- BAL 40: Increasing levels of ember attack and burning debris along with increasing heat flux of up to 40kW/m² and increased likelihood of exposure to flames.
- BAL FZ: Ember attack and direct exposure to flames from the fire front in addition to a heat flux of greater than 40kw/m².
Getting your BAL assessment
Bushfire Recovery Victoria has worked with councils and the Country Fire Authority (CFA) to prepare preliminary bushfire hazard assessments for all properties with destroyed houses. This has saved individual landowners between $1000-$3000.
The preliminary assessment will identify a proposed BAL along with any other bushfire protection measures. These reports can be used by landowners for both planning and building permit applications. While this information may be enough to rebuild homes in existing settlements, some sites have high-extreme bushfire hazards that may require further detailed assessments. For further assessments, an accredited bushfire planning consultant will be required. The Rebuild Support Service will be able to advise you if further information is required.
You can obtain a copy of your assessment by making an appointment with the Rebuilding Support Services.
What does a BAL mean for construction?
As BAL ratings increase, the use of non-flammable materials and methods of construction becomes more important.
Many locations have lower BAL ratings (BAL 19 or 12.5 for example) but there are benefits in deciding to construct to a higher BAL level, such as BAL 29. It will make your building more resilient.
Ember risk: Embers can enter through gaps as small as two millimetres. It’s important that the products and materials used are high quality so there are no gaps or holes left through which embers can enter the roof space, walls or underfloor. At higher BAL ratings, both the underside of the roof as well as above the ceiling should be covered and sealed with non-flammable insulating blankets to minimise ember entry.
Glass and windows: Glass and windows become more expensive at higher BAL ratings (e.g. BAL 40 & BAL FZ), so think carefully during the design phase about where glass is going and whether you use window fire shutters.
Materials: Manufacturers have developed a wide variety of building materials, products and systems of construction that are suited to building in bushfire prone areas. Your design team or builder can recommend products that best suit your needs.
Some common materials used for external cladding or primary construction include corrugated and other steel profiles, fibre cement sheet or moulded panels of the correct thickness, brick, cement, rammed earth, and some timbers in lower BAL categories. Fire resistant sarking, roof and wall insulation products and sealants are also available.
Piping: Plastic pipe may be exposed to heat and melt creating an entry point for embers. The construction standards regulate these materials at higher BAL levels.
Sprinklers: Fire sprinkler systems can be considered, but they do not replace the need for the basic construction to be suited to the level of bushfire risk. This is particularly the case for a new build where eliminating combustible materials from the exterior of the building will generally be more effective and cheaper than a sprinkler system.
There are a range of bushfire sprinkler systems that can be designed into the roof construction or retrofitted to an existing structure. Avoid any designs that can trap embers and other materials on the roof.
Shelters: Victorian planning and building requirements also allow landowners to construct a private bushfire shelter or bunker. The installation of a private bushfire shelter does not remove the need for the house to comply with all the other planning and building requirements.
Costs: At lower BAL ratings, there are no fundamental changes for materials and construction methods that go over and above a typical building project.
At higher BAL ratings (40 and FZ), glazing costs increase, as do costs if shutters or other methods are implemented. Siting your structure to achieve a lower BAL exposure can have a big impact on costs for windows and glazing.
Landscaping and site treatments
While the house and any other main structures will require planning and building permits and must be built in accordance with the National Construction Code, general landscaping and other treatments that landholders undertake overtime generally do not need approval.
In areas exposed to bushfire risk, it is important to think about what is put into garden landscaping or near the house to avoid creating a potential risk to your house. Some tips include:
- Position gas bottles away from the main structure where they can be suitably restrained. Ensure that gas bottles vent away from structures into clear air and do not hinder your main movement or escape routes.
- Use plants and landscaping that are sensible in fire risk areas – see the CFA landscaping guide at .
- Consider what materials you use for landscape features. If possible, use non-combustible materials such as stone, concrete or masonry or more resilient native timbers.
- Consider use of non-flammable materials in waste treatment beds if you need to create them on steeper slopes.
- Avoid the use of flammable materials close to the house. For example, treated pine steps can ignite doors.
- Avoid storing flammable things under houses.
- Think about how septic tank effluent can be used to sustain a green break around structures.
- Remember to only use metal pipes and fittings for all water systems above ground. A melted plastic pipe at the bottom of the hill can let all your firefighting water escape and will not comply with CFA requirements.
- Don’t underestimate the effort required to project manage a build yourself. It’s a big job.
- At a minimum, you will need a registered builder or be an approved owner builder.
- You will also need to appoint a registered building surveyor who will ensure that key stages of the rebuild are inspected at appropriate times and meet standards, and registered plumbers and electricians to complete and certify works (these can be subcontracted by the builder).
The key skills that you may need to engage include:
Registered building practitioner
If you are rebuilding a house, you’ll need to use a registered building practitioner if the value of the work is more than $10,000. You can check if a building practitioner or company is registered using the Victorian Building Authority’s portal at .
Many architects and building designers have developed a range of built dwellings that are designed for all BAL types, and many builders now have experience in construction methods and outcomes required in bushfire resilient construction.
You engage your builder using a building contract. We recommend you visit for information in relation to building, builders, quotations, contracts and consumer protection. You are making a significant investment and should be aware of your rights and obligations.
Alternatively, you may wish to carry out the domestic building work as an owner-builder, where you will be responsible for carrying out the work on your own land. If the value of the domestic building work you will be doing is over $16,000, you will need to obtain a certificate of consent from the Victorian Building Authority to be an owner-builder.
A registered building surveyor
Building surveyors must be appointed by the property owner or their agent. They issue building permits and by law is required to act to ensure any building works meet the requirements of the National Construction Code and other laws. More information about building surveyors can be found later in this guide, under Building permits.
A qualified architect or building designer
These experts bring practical design skills to create plans for a site or dwelling that optimise sustainability, comfort and resilience to hazards. They can also act as a project manager to manage an overall building project.
Specialist advice and soil testing may be required, particularly in steep or complex sites, to inform the design of footings for a building or the capability of land to absorb effluent on site.
Fire consultants can provide assessment of likely bushfire risk, undertake Bushfire Attack Level assessments, inform your siting and design choices, and give specialist advice in relation to bushfire bunkers and roof sprinkler systems.
A registered plumber or electrician
Engaged as part of a total rebuild or to repair and re-establish plumbing or electrical system on a property.
In most cases, your rebuild will require a planning permit.
Before submitting your application
- Engage early with your council to determine what approvals you need and determine whether you will seek professional assistance to prepare your application and supporting paperwork.
- Talk to your neighbours before finalising your plans. If they are unhappy with an aspect of your proposal, you may be able to reach a compromise before lodging your application.
- Based on your concept, develop a site plan. This is the plan of where you want to rebuild your house and sheds. On the plan, show building outlines and distance from property boundaries. You can make this plan yourself or you can engage a professional (e.g. draftsperson or architect).
- Meet with Rebuilding Support Services for assistance in preparing your application.
Requirements for an application will vary council-by-council but generally contain the following information. This is a general list. Depending on the nature of the application, additional information may be requested. To make a planning permit application, you will require the following information:
- Completed application form.
- Rebuilding Support Services can assist you to include a cover letter briefly explaining your proposal.
- Recent Certificate of Title. Council will provide these free to bushfire-affected residents in East Gippsland, Towong and Alpine Shires.
- A final version of your site plan. Plans must be drawn to scale and fully dimensioned. Plans need to show the site, floor layout and elevations, clearly showing building height above natural ground level, floor/roof levels that relate to the site contours and building materials.
The following may also be required depending on your situation:
- Land survey showing features such as contours, location of structures and vegetation on your land, setbacks, and land features between the site and the road. A land survey must be completed by a land surveyor.
- Bushfire Management Plan.
- Land Capability Assessment for properties connected to a septic system.
- Geotechnical and Landslide Risk Assessment for properties with landslip and erosion risk.
- For residential properties in settlements, a response to the decision guidelines and description of how the development responds to the Clause 54 ‘Rescode’ standards. A rebuilding professional can assist with this.
- Application fee (note: application fees have been waived for bushfire-affected residents in East Gippsland, Towong and Alpine Shires).
To build any structure, you will need to obtain a building permit. To apply for a building permit, you need to appoint a building surveyor – the permits are managed through them.
The role of the building surveyor is to ensure that your building is being built correctly. Building surveyors are professionals trained in understanding the building process. They are responsible for issuing building permits, carrying out mandatory inspections during the build process and having the authority to take enforcement action to ensure building work complies with regulatory requirements and standards.
You will need to appoint a building surveyor for any project that requires a building permit. So the surveying process remains independent, the builder can't appoint the building surveyor.
In your building permit, your building surveyor will:
- specify the mandatory inspections that will be required throughout the course of the building work
- provide certificate of a final inspection and certificate of occupancy on completion of the building work
A registered building surveyor is authorised to:
- assess building permit applications for compliance with laws and construction codes
- issue building and occupancy permits, and certificates of final inspection
- conduct building inspections at the mandatory notification stages
- give directions to fix non-compliant building work
- serve building notices and orders
Applying for a building permit
To apply for a building permit with your building surveyor, you will need to:
- provide copies of drawings, specifications and allotment plans, along with the completed application form and other prescribed information
- pay the building permit levy yourself fee (note: fee has been waived for bushfire-affected residents in East Gippsland, Towong and Alpine Shires)
Bushfire management plans
A Bushfire Management Plan is a document that shows where the dwelling is on the site and must clearly show that all of the requirements of the bushfire management overlay have been met. These requirements relate to:
- defendable space – where it is and how it will be managed in future
- construction standard – what Bushfire attack level is required
- water supply – how much water must be stored on site for firefighting purposes, where the tank will be located, and any fittings required for CFA to use
- access – design standards for emergency vehicle to access the site
Once a planning permit is issued, this plan will be endorsed and will become a legal document.
How to make a bushfire management plan
The preliminary bushfire hazard site assessment will provide you with relevant information to inform planning and building permits. This is available through the Rebuilding Support Service.
With the assessment provided, you can complete a template available at to create your bushfire management plan. You can do this yourself, with the support of the rebuilding support service or engage a bushfire planning consultant to assist you.
While this information may be enough to rebuild homes in existing settlements, some sites have extreme bushfire hazards that may require further detailed assessments. For further assessments, an accredited bushfire planning consultant will be required.
If you’d like to site the dwelling in a different location to the bushfire hazard site assessment provided, you will need to engage an accredited bushfire planning consultant.
Only licenced land surveyors are authorised to perform land surveys (also known as site surveys.)
Land surveying helps determine the positions of property boundaries and other site characteristics including features and contours. Land surveys address:
- existing site & flood levels
- engineering and civil works
- easement dealings
- digital feature, level and contour surveys
If you are uncertain about what your surveying needs are or would like to arrange a survey of your property boundaries, make a time with Rebuilding Support Services.
Title boundary re-establishment
Following a bushfire, where boundary fences may have been destroyed, it is important that title boundaries of properties be re-established and marked on the ground by a licensed land surveyor prior to buildings and works occurring.
Only licensed land surveyors are authorised to perform title boundary surveys.
The Office of Surveyor-General Victoria (SGV) is coordinating the Victorian surveying response to the 2019-20 Victorian Bushfires.
Surveyors from SGV have visited the fire affected townships in Gippsland and North-East Victoria to recover and preserve survey data used to re-establish title boundaries and provide site levels.
SGV is also working with public land managers who are responsible for repairs to damaged or destroyed fences between private properties and public land including National Parks, State Parks and State Forests.
Geotechnical and landslide risk assessments
Bushfires have a significant impact on the landscape due to the loss of vegetation by the fire and clearing of vegetation during clean-up. This can increase the risk of landslips and accelerate soil erosion causing sediment runoff into creeks, wetlands and reservoirs. This erosion can cause drainage issues and have a significant impact on water quality in waterways and catchments.
East Gippsland Shire
Many rural properties in the fire affected areas of East Gippsland Shire are on land subject to the Erosion Management Overlay (EMO).
These properties may require a geotechnical assessment to support the planning permit application to build, construct or carry out works including vegetation removal and earthworks.
The assessment determines how to manage erosion and landslip risk through siting and design of dwellings, associated landscaping and erosion management controls.
Towong Shire is susceptible to moderate wind, sheet, rill, gully and tunnel erosion. Most of the fire affected areas are on steep land that require development to assess site characteristics and environmental conditions.
Properties with a slope of land greater than 20 degrees require geotechnical assessments to support planning permit applications.
These assessments have similar requirements to the Erosion Management Overlay including assessing siting, limiting earthworks and avoiding removal of vegetation.
Getting your geotechnical and landslide risk assessment
A geotechnical assessment must be conducted by a suitably qualified geotechnical consultant.
You can get financial support for this assessment.
What support will I get?
The Geotechnical Rebate Assessment Program will provide support for required geotechnical assessments prepared by a geotechnical consultant to satisfy the requirements of the:
- Erosion Management Overlay within the East Gippsland Planning Scheme, to the satisfaction of the East Gippsland Shire Council, or
- Steep Land local policy of the Towong Planning Scheme. to the satisfaction of the Towong Shire Council.
- A standard soil report to support an application for a Building Permit.
- The program will provide up to eighty percent of the cost of:
- A standard soil report to support an application for a Building Permit, up to a maximum of $400.
- A full geotechnical assessment, to satisfy the requirements of either:
- The Erosion Management Overlay in the East Gippsland Planning Scheme to the satisfaction of the East Gippsland Shire Council, up to a maximum of $2,000, or
- The Steep Land local policy of the Towong Planning Scheme for a proposed building site with a slope of 20% or greater, to the satisfaction of the Towong Shire Council, up to a maximum of $2,000.
Who can apply?
To be eligible to apply for funding:
- you must be the landowner or have the written permission of the landowner to apply
- buildings on the property must have been damaged from direct impacts of bushfire, as verified through the bushfire recovery clean-up process
- the geotechnical assessment must be conducted by a suitably qualified geotechnical consultant to the satisfaction of the local council
- the assessment must be required to satisfy the requirements of the Erosion Management Overlay in the East Gippsland Planning Scheme or the Steep Land local planning policy in the Towong Planning Scheme
- the property is in the municipality of East Gippsland or Towong
- you must be intending to rebuild in the same Local Government Area
How to apply
Make sure you have copies of the supporting information needed to be submitted with your application as outlined above.
Before applying, please read and understand the program guidelines, the application form and any other information that may be relevant to your situation.
If you have any extenuating circumstances that have caused unforeseen costs or have impacted your eligibility, please contact Melbourne Water to discuss your application.
Land capability assessments (for wastewater)
To determine the appropriate on-site domestic wastewater solution a Land Capability Assessment is required.
This assessment is required as part of a Septic Tank System Permit Application.
The assessment identifies building and development constraints including soil types, drainage lines, land slope, proximity to waterbodies as well as other relevant landscape concerns.
This will provide landholders and their architects, designers, engineers, insurers and builders with preliminary advice and options to guide the design and siting of a house. This is important work to ensure the protection of human health and the environment.
Getting your land capability assessment
A land capability assessment must be conducted by an appropriately qualified and experienced professional in the environmental, geotechnical, soil science and/or wastewater consulting field.
You can get financial support for this assessment as part of the Rainwater and Septic Tanks Replacement Program.
Please see the Rainwater and Septic Tanks section below in this guide for more information.
Rainwater and Septic Tank Replacement Program
The Rainwater and Septic Tank Replacement Program will support households that have lost or significantly damaged rainwater and/or septic tanks on their primary place of residence as a result of the 2019/20 Bushfires.
Support under the program will be available for any work completed since the commencement of the bushfires on 21 November 2019.
The support will be provided as a rebate payment to eligible applicants.
The rebate allows for eligible households to reclaim expenses accrued, on proof of receipt, for the replacement of their primary use rainwater and/or septic tank.
The applicant will be required to source their own local suppliers and rainwater/septic tank systems and demonstrate that they meet the eligibility requirements during the application process.
What support can I get?
The Rainwater and Septic Tank Replacement Program will provide support for:
- up to half the cost of:
- the purchase and installation of a new primary use rainwater tank system to residents rebuilding homes, up to a maximum of $3,000
- the purchase and installation of a new primary use septic tank system to residents rebuilding homes, up to a maximum of $15,000
- the full cost of:
- the initial refill of the rainwater tank specifically installed as part of this program, up to a maximum cap of $500
- any combination of assessments required to get council approval to install or alter a septic system including condition reports undertaken by a qualified plumber and Land Capability Assessments, up to a maximum of $1,500
- any minor repairs or reconnections required if the tank systems are undamaged and comply with current standards, up to a maximum of $2,500
The program will also cover relevant associated costs including the purchase of rainwater or septic tank system, associated plumbing and materials connected to system, installation costs and delivery charges – up to the maximum outlined below.
The maximum support available to successful applicants per household will be:
- $15,000 for septic systems
- $3,000 for rainwater tanks
- $1,500 for essential assessments including condition reports and Land Capability Assessments
- $500 for the initial refill of the rainwater tank
- $2,500 for the cost for any minor repairs or reconnections required if the tank systems are undamaged
Who can apply?
To be eligible to apply for funding, you must be the owner of a home that:
- is your principal place of residence
- the damage to the home, primary rainwater and/or primary septic system was directly caused bushfire, as verified through the bushfire recovery clean-up process
- not on a reticulated system and requires a rainwater/septic system for primary use
- intending to rebuild your home on the same property or in the same local government region and require rainwater and/or septic tank installations, repairs or reconnections
- you have sought funds through any available insurance arrangements prior to seeking assistance from this program
In addition, to be eligible for support you must:
- ensure all rainwater and/or septic tanks are designed, manufactured and certified to the relevant Australian Standards and installation complies with current building standards
- seek and comply with relevant approvals including:
- a permit to install/alter a septic tank;
- Land Capability Assessment; and
- Planning Permit from their local council
- ensure you use an appropriately licensed and accredited plumber
- provide the relevant mandatory supporting documentation
How to apply
Before submitting an application, you should complete the checklist below to make sure you have all the information required:
- copies of tax invoices and receipts for all completed works or claims
- evidence that you own the property
- 2 types of identification that show the property address to confirm that it is your principle place of residence (e.g. rate notices, electricity bills, phone bills, drivers’ licence)
- clean up completion certificate from BRV (or evidence that demonstrates your property has been through a bushfire damage clean-up process)
- details of the account that the funding support will be deposited into
You may also need:
- a condition report on your existing septic system, completed by a qualified plumber (if required)
- Land Capability Assessment for the property
- relevant planning or building permits for the works, issued by Council
- a copy of the Septic Tank Certificate of Use that has been issued by a Council Environmental Health Officer post-works
- details on the make and model of the rainwater tank system installed
- plumbing compliance certificate indicating all works have been undertaken and certified by a licensed plumber
Australian Institute of Architects
Australian Institute of Building Surveyors
Bushfire Building Council of Australia
Consumer Affairs Victoria
Country Fire Authority
Provides information on planning for bushfires and how to create your own fire plan, plus guidance on bushfire planning requirements, templates for developing bushfire plans and practical measures to retrofitting existing houses to improve resilience to bushfire impact
Department of Environment Land Water and Planning
Manages Victoria’s planning and building systems. Provides guidance on planning and building approvals and how the planning and building systems work, including templates and examples. Also offers online search capability to check planning scheme zones and any other overlays or controls affecting land
Energy Safe Victoria
Environment Protection Authority
Sets regulations and standards for activities that may impact the environment or human health. This includes requirements for rainwater tanks for drinking water, and requirements for the installation and use of on-site waste systems including septic tanks.
Fire Protection Association
Peak body for fire protection professionals. Provides links to professionals able to provide bushfire risk assessments, bushfire attack level assessments as well as design of fire suppression systems and the like
Housing industry Association
Masters Builders Association
National Association of Steel-Framed Housing (NASH)
NASH is an industry association centred on light steel structural framing systems for residential and commercial construction. Provide information on the benefits of steel framing in the context of bushfire
Planning Institute of Australia
Victorian Building Authority
Regulator of building and plumbing in Victoria. Provides advice on registration currency as well as disciplinary matters, and a range of information on building in Victoria, and rebuilding after a bushfire including retrofitting existing structures
Key search terms online
Useful search terms on search engines include:
- BAL 29 houses
- BAL 40 houses
- Bushfire House Design
- Bushfire Bunkers
- Bushfire Sprinkler Systems
- Retrofitting for bushfire
Search engines are also how you may research your builders, architects, designers, plumbers, electricians, town planners, bushfire planning consultants or engineers.
Short-term modular housing is an option available for a number of families who lost their primary place of residence in the 2019/20 Victorian Bushfires.
The housing will be delivered to your property, or another location as agreed by authorities, property owners and the resident.
You will be able to live in these homes for a period of up to three years while you progress your permanent rebuild.
Who is eligible?
The Case Support Program will work with you if you are identified as potentially needing short-term modular housing. You will be eligible if:
- you are engaged in the Case Support Program
- your primary place of residence was destroyed or damaged and has been deemed uninhabitable
- you owned and occupied or rented your primary place of residence
- you intend to build a primary place of residence on site within three years
- case support determines there is no alternative suitable accommodation within 30 kilometres of your primary place of residence
- there is at least one person over the age of 16 who will occupy the home
What if I don't want this option?
The modular housing option is designed to support and complement existing DHHS housing provision. If you don’t want to take up the option of short-term modular housing, case support will continue to work with you to ensure you are in DHHS-supported emergency accommodation or that you have access to alternative private arrangements that are safe and secure.
Who can I contact?
You can also see the factsheet below for any further information, including indicative floor-plans and photos.
Rebuilding Support Program
Hundreds of properties were damaged or destroyed in the 2019-20 Victorian Bushfires. Bushfire Recovery Victoria is working across the Victorian Government and with councils to deliver the Rebuilding Support Program, which is a series of services, supports and grants that aim to help these households rebuild successfully – and safely.
Owners of destroyed or damaged properties can access assistance under the Rebuilding Support Program, including:
- Vital health, wellbeing and financial counselling support through the free Bushfire Recovery Case Support Program, which to date has worked with over 1700 families and individuals across bushfire-affected areas.
- New, temporary high-quality modular homes designed to be occupied for up to three years on people’s land while they undertake their permanent rebuild. The Victorian Government’s Short-Term Modular Housing program is delivered by Bushfire Recovery Victoria.
- A ‘one-stop-shop’ Rebuild Support Service (RSS) for property owners, funded by the Victorian Government and delivered through Councils.
For more information about the Rebuilding Support Program, please view the factsheet:
Accessing the Rebuilding Support Service
The Rebuild Support Service can be accessed by contacting:
- In East Gippsland Shire, visit , or call and select 1.
- In Towong Shire, visit (select 'Upper Murray Fires 2020') or call .
Through this service, delivered by council and Bushfire Recovery Victoria, property owners can get support to navigate planning and building permit processes, including:
- A copy of the completed preliminary bushfire hazard assessment – funded by the Victorian Government on behalf of property owners, saving them up to $3000.
- Access to planners, environmental health officers and building surveyors to assist with technical advice to support the permit application process.
- More than $20,000 in rebates for other essential assessments and infrastructure required as part of the rebuilding process, such as soil tests, geotechnical risk assessments, land capability (wastewater) assessments, and installation of septic tanks and new rainwater tanks.
Accessing the Case Support Program
- $40,000 in payments from the Victorian Bushfire Appeal.
- Up to $42,000 in emergency re-establishment grants for uninsured or underinsured households.
- Other public grants, such as grants of up to $75,000 if their home formed part of a farm business.
- Charitable grants, including up to $20,000 from the Red Cross.
Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) assessments
All new houses in Victoria must be built to current planning, building, safety and environmental standards.
These safety standards exist for one reason: to protect human life. They were recommendations from the Black Saturday Royal Commission, a disaster that claimed 173 lives.
Depending on how exposed a property is to a potential bushfire (according to its Bushfire Attack Level, or BAL) a resident rebuilding their property may have to:
- Create and maintain additional ‘defendable space’ around their structure.
- Incorporate safety features such as gutter guards and window shutters.
- Use specific construction materials.
The surrounding landscape beyond the ‘fence line’ of properties can also pose bushfire risks and must be considered.
The Victorian Government funded preliminary bushfire hazard assessments of all properties where a dwelling was destroyed. Expert bushfire planning professionals completed these assessments in consultation with the Country Fire Authority (CFA).
The preliminary assessment has identified a preliminary BAL along with any other bushfire protection measures. While this information may be enough to rebuild homes in existing settlements, some sites have high-extreme bushfire hazards that may require further detailed assessments.
For further assessments, an accredited bushfire planning consultant will be required. The Rebuild Support Service will be able to advise you if further information is required. The BAL is a nationwide approach to determine the severity of a building’s potential exposure to ember attack, radiant heat and direct flame contact.
For more information, please view the Rebuilding Support Program factsheet:
While the vast majority of households will have a traditional and typical rebuild in front of them, the preliminary assessments indicate a small number of principal places of residence are rated at the highest Bushfire Attack Level rating (BAL 40 or BAL FZ), or are located in an extreme bushfire risk area.
These ‘complex site’ property owners will face more challenges building a home that is safe to live in.
As part of the Rebuilding Support Program, Bushfire Recovery Victoria is also working across government and with councils to deliver specialised, tailored support and extra options to owners of complex sites. This includes:
- The newly formed independent Complex Site Taskforce, bringing together external experts to find solutions for home locations on individual sites.
- We want people to rebuild successfully and safely and the Complex Site Taskforce will recommend ways to resolve difficult building issues. The Complex Site Taskforce will assist with concept planning and building design, supporting property owners to retreat from the previous house site and rebuild in a lower risk location if practical.
- For those property owners where an alternative house site is not possible, a voluntary Resettlement Program is available to owners of high-risk, complex sites providing the option to sell their property at the 2019 site value (approved by the Government Land Monitor) to the Victorian Government.
- This option is offered as a last resort and will be administered in line with previous Victorian Government resettlement schemes.
The Bushfire Recovery Case Support Program will also work closely with owners of complex sites on further options for support.
For more information, please view the Rebuilding Support Program factsheet:
- The newly formed independent Complex Site Taskforce, bringing together external experts to find solutions for home locations on individual sites.
The Rainwater and Septic Tank Replacement Program will support households that have lost or significantly damaged rainwater and/or septic tanks on their primary place of residence as a result of the 2019-20 fires.
Rebates, of up to $15,000 for septic tanks and $3,000 for household rainwater tanks, are available to cover up to half of the costs of the purchase and installation of new primary use tank systems to residents rebuilding homes.
To assist with the installation process, up to $1,500 funding is available for any combination of assessments required to get council approval to install or alter a septic system including condition reports undertaken by a qualified plumber and Land Capability Assessments.
Further funding of up to $500 is available to cover the initial refill of a rainwater tank installed as part of the program.
Rebates of up to $2,500 are also available for minor repairs or reconnections required for undamaged tank systems that comply with current standards.
The program is available to households in Alpine, Towong and East Gippsland shires, not connected to reticulated urban water systems, for the replacement, minor repairs or reconnection of primary use rainwater and septic tanks at their primary place of residence.
Rebates are available for works completed since 21 November 2019 and until 31 May 2023.
Melbourne Water will administer the Program on behalf of the Victorian Government, as represented by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and Bushfire Recovery Victoria.
You can also contact your local Bushfire Recovery Hub to access Rebuild Support Services.
People may need licensed surveyors to support planning permit applications, as well as for other construction work as part of the design and building process. This includes re-establishing private properties’ boundaries and identifying features on properties such as flood levels.
A list of surveying firms and licensed land surveyors willing to volunteer their services to residents affected by the bushfires is available from local council and the Community Recovery Hub. These services include free professional advice on specific surveys and title boundary surveys at a discounted rate, only covering costs or less.
Reclaim land and property information
People impacted by bushfires are eligible to receive access to the land titles register to reclaim essential land and property information destroyed by bushfire – free of charge.
Architects Assist is an initiative by the built environment industry to help and support those affected by the Australian bushfire crisis. Their aim is to help communities ‘build back better.’
Native vegetation removal and offsets
Native vegetation provides habitat for plants and animals and delivers a range of essential ecosystem services that make land more productive and contribute to human well-being. Native vegetation is plants that are indigenous to Victoria, including trees, shrubs, herbs, and grasses
In Victoria, a permit is usually required to remove or impact native vegetation, outlined in the Guidelines for the removal, destruction or lopping of native vegetation. These regulations are a State Government requirement, which are implemented through the Planning Scheme of the Local Council.
The Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) have a range of resources that are useful in determining how to assess impacts to native vegetation and determine offset requirements. Refer to the for information and resources to assist your application.
The term ‘offset’ refers to the compensation of native vegetation that is removed from one area and replaced or managed in another area that is protected to retain ecological values forever.
When the siting and design of the proposed development is determined this will inform the area and location of defendable space that will be defined in a Bushfire Management Statement and Plan.
Where possible native vegetation removal should be avoided or minimised.
Careful consideration of the siting of your dwelling can save substantial costs in reports, tree removals required for defendable space and offsets.
The Department of Land Water and Planning (DELWP) provides a range of exemptions for offsetting the removal of some vegetation. Your planner will investigate if any of these exemptions apply to your application. Refer to the to download the guide or find more information on exemptions.
Native vegetation can be removed, destroyed or lopped to the minimum extent necessary without a planning permit for the following activities:
- On a site with an area of less than 4,000 square meters
- To create defendable space around an existing building used for accommodation constructed or approved before 10 September 2009 including the removal of:
- any vegetation within 10 metres of an existing building
- any vegetation, except trees, within 30 metres of an existing building if the land is within a designated bushfire-prone-area (BPA)
- any vegetation, except trees, within 50 metres of an existing building if the land is in within the Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO)
- To enable the operation or maintenance of an existing fence or the construction of a boundary fence between properties in different ownership, up to a maximum combined width of four metres
The above provisions do not apply to accommodation constructed or approved after the 10 September 2009, including the rebuilding of dwellings destroyed by a bushfire.
Once you know the precise amount of native vegetation removal required to meet your construction, works and defendable space requirements:
- You will need to compile information about the vegetation including: The species of the vegetation; The Diameter of the vegetation measured at 1.3 metres above the natural ground level, or Breast height (DBH); and the Tree Protection Zone (TPZ) which is calculated by multiplying the DBH by 12. This information needs to be added to your site plan.
- Use the to generate a Native Vegetation Removal Report. This will indicate the amount of offsets you will be required to provide for the vegetation that will be removed.
- The Applicant’s guide can be found on the . The Applications to remove, destroy or lop native vegetation will guide you through this process.
- You can estimate the cost of your offset requirement using information available on the page.
The offset requirements will be a condition on a Planning Permit. There are two options to offset native vegetation removal:
- First party (onsite) offset if your property meets the eligibility criteria. This is the preferred option if viable, because it retains biodiversity values as close as possible to where they have been removed from. Use the to see if this is a viable option.
- Third party (offsite) offset, by purchasing credits from the .
Biodiversity Bushfire recovery Grants
Funding has been provided by the Victorian Government in response to the impact of the 2019-20 bushfires for Biodiversity Bushfire Recovery Grants. This applies to third party (offsite) offsets.
These grants support bushfire recovery activities for communities affected by fire in the North East, East Gippsland and Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Areas.
A total of $900,000 is available. Successful applicants' projects can receive up to:
- $10,000 for private landholders (Stream 1)
- $30,000 for environmental volunteer groups (Stream 2)
- $50,000 for environmental volunteer networks (Stream 3)
Damage and hazards
The 2020 Clean-Up Program covered the demolition and disposal of all buildings destroyed or damaged beyond repair by this season's bushfires (including residential homes and sheds, commercial and public buildings, and other out-buildings), free of charge.
736 properties were cleared of over 2500 structures as part of the Clean-up, which concluded ahead of its scheduled August 31 completion.
A clean-up crew will be retained for a period of time in reserve for those households who initially didn't take up the offer of a free clean-up. If you are in this situation, please to discuss your options.
Fencing repair and upgrade - national parks, state parks and state forests
The Victorian Government will pay half the cost of materials to repair, replace or upgrade bushfire-damaged fencing bordering national parks, state parks and state forests.
Previously, the Government has paid half the cost of materials to replace bushfire-damaged fencing in these circumstances, but only to its pre-existing standard.
Under this program, the Government will fund half the cost of materials to provide an upgrade for fire-resistant and pest-resistant fencing to a maximum of $5000p/km. Funding does not cover labour costs.
Fencing upgrade options include:
- fire-resistant materials, such as steel or concrete components
- pest control designs, such as insulated wires for electric fencing
Improved fencing is one option available to landholders. The offer to cover half the cost of materials is still available to landholders if they just want to replace fencing to its pre-existing standard.
DELWP will conduct field inspection and data collection, when it is safe to do so, determine eligibility and assistance level and assist the landholder in determining fence type.
Once parties formally agree with a signed agreement, a claim is processed, and monies are paid to the landholder.
DELWP may accept photos from landholders as evidence for damaged and/or burnt fences where they haven’t yet been able to visit for an assessment.
The information provided by the landholder will need to be confirmed with an assessor before the claim is finalised.
Once a claim has been lodged with DELWP and an assessment has been conducted, landowners can engage a fencing contractor of their choice.
Landowners may choose to conduct the works themselves. This should be discussed at the time of assessment.
Landholders have 12 months to lodge a claim from when the damage occurred.
People affected by the 2019-20 Victorian Bushfires may be eligible for housing assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
Housing Assistance Coordinators have been employed in bushfire affected areas to support people referred to the department by the Victorian Bushfires Case Support Program and other supporting agencies.
The Housing Assistance Coordinators can provide information about the support and housing assistance options available from the department including the following:
RentAssist bond loan
DHHS can assist people affected by the bushfires who require financial support to pay a bond to assist in securing private rental accommodation. The Housing Assistance Coordinators can provide information about the loan.
Community Housing and Private rental payment assistance
DHHS can assist a person affected by the bushfires with financial support to meet their rental payment obligations. The Housing Assistance Coordinators can provide information about rental assistance payments.
Access to Public and Community Housing
Temporary and longer-term social housing accommodation may be available to people who have been displaced from their homes and are not able to return. The Housing Assistance Coordinators can provide information about applying for and accessing social housing in Victoria.
Assistance for existing public housing renters
Public housing renters who have been impacted by the bushfires may be eligible for a rental subsidy. Renters should contact the Housing Assistance Coordinator or their local department office for further details.
How to Access the Housing Assistance Coordinator
For a referral to a Housing Assistance Coordinator, please call Bushfire Recovery Victoria on or email
They will help you access a Case Support Program in your area who will assess your needs. If you need housing assistance, the Case Support Program will refer you to a Housing Assistance Coordinator.
Hundreds of thousands of trees have been damaged or destroyed in the 2019/20 Victorian Bushfires. Many damaged trees remain standing that can potentially cause serious injury or death. Tree hazards are a risk at all stages of operations.
A hazardous tree is typically defined by one or more of the following characteristics:
- dead and / or decaying tree or major branches
- suspected loose or broken branches
- significant lean with recent cause or indicators of failure
- evidence of longitudinal cracking
- evidence of roots lifting, or an undercut or disturbed root system
- other indicators of serious weakness based on local knowledge
The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) is responsible for the removal of hazardous trees on public or Crown land that are damaged by bushfires and pose an immediate safety risk along roads, tracks and public sites.
DELWP is currently undertaking considerable hazardous tree assessment and removal on public land areas and roads in order to provide a safe working environment for staff and adjoining landholders and for public visitation and use.
Regional Recovery Teams are coordinating and prioritising the assessment and removal of hazardous trees on roads managed by Regional Roads Victoria, councils and DELWP. As there are hundreds of kilometres of fire affected roads, assessment and removal of hazardous trees on minor roads will take months.
Managing hazardous trees on your property is your responsibility. Be aware of the condition of trees before you work near them. Large trees that have been burnt by fires are likely to have some level of impact that may put them into a hazardous category. An arborist or qualified tree assessor is someone who can help you assess the risk posed by trees as a result of fire damage.
As part of the 2020 Clean-Up Program, Grocon (the program contractor) will assess, manage and remove hazardous trees where it is necessary.
Having water of a quality that is fit for purpose is important.
The best way to be certain about the quality of your water is to have it tested. Links to water testing laboratories for detailed water testing can be found on the website. There may be additional laboratories that carry out water testing.
Stock and irrigation water
The salinity of water is a good guide to what it can be used for. The salinity is a measure of the concentration of soluble salts in water. All natural waters contain some dissolved salts. The salinity, however, does not tell you anything about the individual chemicals that make up the dissolved salts.
The Environmental Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) provides health advice to people about recreational water use. This includes advice about primary contact (e.g. swimming) and secondary contact (e.g. boating) recreational pursuits.
Testing for drinking water should be conducted by water testing laboratories and compared to the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.
It is recommended that drinking water should be sourced from your local water authority.
Reviewed 27 November 2020