NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Cleaning up and rebuilding

The following information is general guidance on returning to your property through to rebuilding your home.

Returning to your property

When returning to your property after a natural disaster, consider the following to protect your health:

  • Do not enter your property until you are advised that it is safe to do so by emergency services, utilities companies or your local council.
  • Electrical hazards could exist such as live power lines that may be down or active solar panels.
  • Buildings and other structures may be unstable to enter or walk over.
  • Sewerage and septic systems may be disrupted causing health risks.
  • Be aware that potentially hazardous materials may be hidden under the rubble.
  • Building rubble should not be buried as it may contain hazardous materials.
  • Waste generated because of the natural disaster needs to go to lawful facilities to ensure soil, water and human health is protected.
  • Asbestos dust and fibres have the potential to present a health risk.
  • Asbestos clean-up and removal must be done by a licensed asbestos removalist.

Repairing your home

Not all repairs will require approval from council. Some non-structural repairs are exempt development and do not require an approval. The following table contains some examples of minor works that can be undertaken without approval, if your property is not a heritage item or in a heritage conservation area:

Minor internal building alteration for the replacement or renovation of: Minor external non-structural building alteration:
(a) a doorway, wall, ceiling or floor lining (a) painting, plastering, cement rendering, cladding, attaching fittings or decorative work
(b) a deteriorated frame member, including stairs and stairwells (b) the replacement of an external window, glazing areas or a door (other than those on bushfire prone land)
(c) a bathroom or kitchen (c) the repair to or replacement of a non-structural wall or roof cladding
(d) a built-in fixture such as a vanity, a cupboard or a wardrobe (d) the installation of a security screen or grill to a door or window or a security door
(e) an existing sanitary fixture, such as a grease trap or the like (e) the repair to or replacement of a balustrade
(f) shelving or racking that is not higher than 2.7m (f) restumping or repairing structure foundations without increasing the height of the structure
(g) a work station or counter

For further information on what types of work can be carried out as exempt development, contact codes@planning.nsw.gov.au

For a full list of minor building alterations that can be undertake without approval and the relevant provisions that must be complied with, please visit the Exempt Development page on the Planning Portal.

Rebuilding your home

Is approval required?

Yes, all fully constructed dwellings (with occupation certificate) that require rebuilding will require approval.

There may be other approvals required as part of these applications, i.e. Local Government Approvals to undertake plumbing work. Before undertaking any work, please contact your local council to determine what approvals are required to rebuild your home.

Homes without planning approvals destroyed or damaged by a natural disaster

In certain areas there are some destroyed or damaged homes that were originally built without planning approval.

If your home was built without planning approval, we encourage you to contact your council for information about what approvals you will need before you rebuild.

The department does not have a compliance role with regard to these homes and will not take any action against people who previously built a home without planning approval that has recently been destroyed or damaged by natural disasters.

Fee Waiver

Fees related to BASIX Certificates and the Planning Reform Fund will be waived for all development applications related to homes damaged or destroyed in the following natural disasters.

The 2018 Tathra bushfire and 2019/2020 bushfire season affected property owners can contact the department to arrange for a BASIX Certificate to be issued free of charge. The contact number is 1300 054 464.

Understanding your risk

Recent natural disasters in NSW were unprecedented and caused widespread damage. Even if your home was lost or damaged in fires or floods, it does not mean that your property is at high or extreme risk from future events. Knowing your risk is important because it will help you understand what approval pathway you need to follow and whether any additional measures need to be put in place to reduce the risk from future events.

There are several options in order to understand the risk to your property from bushfire:

  • You can seek advice from the NSW RFS about building in a bushfire prone area. The RFS NSW has a series of FAQs including on topics such as complying development, asset protection zones and bushfire prone land. There is also a section on risk. You can also speak to an RFS officer on 1300 NSW RFS
  • The NSW RFS Single Dwelling Application Kit is a step by step guide to assist in understanding and determining your bushfire risk to your property.
  • Contact your local council to discuss your site bushfire safety and building in bushfire areas.
  • Fire Protection Association Australia has resources related to engaging an accredited bushfire consultant to prepare a Bushfire Attack Level report.
  • Planning for Bushfire Protection – PBP provides guidelines and requirements for developing in bushfire prone areas in NSW. Planning law requires all new development on bushfire prone land to comply with PBP. The aim of PBP is to provide for the protection of human life and to minimise the impacts on property from the threat of bushfire.

You can learn more about the flood risk for your property by:

  • viewing the flood hazard layers through the NSW Planning Portal spatial viewer.
  • reviewing the Guideline for considering flooding in land use planning to understand how your local council will approach flood planning.
  • visiting your local council’s website to review any local flood studies carried out in your area.

Page last updated: 08/11/2022