Following the devastating Australian 2019/20 bushfire season, the New South Wales (NSW) Bushfire Clean-Up Program was established to clear fire damaged properties across the state.
With thousands of tonnes of material across thousands of properties and communities grieving the loss of homes and businesses, it was vital that land could be cleared as quickly as possible for community safety and to accelerate the rebuilding process.
Managing contractor Laing O’Rourke called on RPS specialists to be part of the team, advising on heritage aspects of the initiative.
When it came to the demolition of fire-damaged buildings, an exemption was granted for most structures from the usual development application process, though heritage assets would still need approval before clearing could occur.
Our team reviewed asset lists for more than 2,000 properties to identify those with known heritage values including local and state heritage listed structures and properties with Indigenous heritage values present. These sites were summarised within registers and plotted spatially using geographic information system (GIS) tools for consideration by the project managers.
Where heritage sites required clearing, our consultants provided detailed heritage reports and delivered these to consenting authorities for approval (generally local councils). The team would then work with the council to discuss the best mechanism for balancing heritage outcomes with the need for safe demolition, the removal of hazardous materials, environmental management and community needs.
As a result of the program, more than 3,600 properties were cleared by early August 2020 and more than $150 million was injected into fire-affected communities through local contractors who were engaged to complete the clean-up work.
The program was acknowledged in the 2020 NSW Premier’s Awards – taking out top honours in the ‘Recovery and Resilience’ category.
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