Bushfire Risk Across Landscapes – Strategy through to implementation

Transport for NSW (TfNSW) manages a large and diverse portfolio of land across the State, with over 3000 individual land parcels.

These properties include land previously purchased for large road development projects as well as blocks that have been strategically acquired in preparation for future road development.

TfNSW engaged Umwelt to provide an integrated State-wide bushfire management strategy which was delivered in three stages.

Phase 1 – Landscape-Level Bushfire Risk Assessment

The first task was the development of a scoring system to assess the bushfire risk of individual blocks across NSW. Due to the large number of blocks, an approach based on spatial analysis risk scores, was devised.

Individual blocks were scored on their potential to carry fire (size, vegetation, slope) as well as their position related to important assets (residential areas, civil infrastructure). Other factors considered included the environmental values known to occur on the blocks.

The scoring system separated land into high, medium and low risk to guide future management, with the separation between risk classes based on bushfire potential as well as ongoing maintenance requirements for emergency response assets, such as fire trails and Asset Protection Zones. Recent fire history was also reviewed.

Initial spatial classification of blocks against their hazard potential.


Phase 2 – Bushfire Strategy Development

Strategy development included an analysis of legal obligations and constraints, assigned ongoing actions to land parcels based on their risk level, strategic value to TfNSW, and presence of infrastructure or environmental values requiring future management. This included a consideration of regenerative land management, and provisions for including indigenous fire management.

The Strategy includes targets and annual reporting, review periods for Bushfire Management Plans and management of the overall Strategy.

Environmental impacts are minimised by identifying sensitive areas and limiting clearance to areas that are important for public safety.

Phase 3 – On-ground Implementation

Umwelt is currently working on the implementation of the TfNSW Bushfire strategy with a focus on field checks of fire management infrastructure and online mapping of defects. This includes a package of annual works that includes:

  • inspections of fire trails on TfNSW land, with maintenance requirements mapped into a live GIS system that can generate a real-time snapshot of trail condition
  • inspections of Asset Protection Zones, with condition similarly mapped onto a live GIS
  • development of property specific Bushfire Management Plans to manage risk for large, high risk blocks close to important community assets
  • annual re-calculation of hazard scores across the land portfolio

This project demonstrates our capacity to create organisation-level policies and plans informed by detailed risk assessments. In addition the ongoing implementation phase work demonstrates our capacity to undertake on-ground risk assessment and bring innovative technologies like live GIS to managing fire trails and Asset Protection Zones.

If you would like further information, please contact Cormac Farrell on 1300 793 267 or cfarrell@umwelt.com.au