Nature conservation

Parks, reserves and protected areas

Planning and research

Effective bushfire management relies on application of best practice and detailed planning that accounts for the risks and requirements of each landscape and community in NSW.


Ongoing research is required to establish a knowledge base and best practice for effective fire management. Research is also required to place Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) fire management within a risk management framework, as recommended by the COAG National Bushfire Inquiry. To meet its statutory obligations of protecting life and property and conserving biodiversity and cultural heritage, OEH accesses a wide range of knowledge sources across an array of fields, for example, OEH:

  • is a leading agency in the National Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre
  • actively participates on local, state, national and international committees and forums including the NSW Bush Fire Coordination Committee (BFCC) and the Australasian Fire Authorities Council (AFAC)
  • has cooperative arrangements with universities and other institutions undertaking fire related research
  • has a specialist Bushfire Ecology Unit that investigates the ecological and environmental impacts of bushfires.

Risk Management

OEH faces an array of fire management related risks. These risks occur both during planned and unplanned fire events and can be divided into five major areas of responsibility:

  • people - to ensure the health, safety and welfare of park visitors, and all persons involved in fire management (both OEH staff and others)
  • environment and heritage - to conserve natural and cultural heritage values
  • community - to ensure cooperation with the public, stakeholders, NSW Government, regulatory authorities and other fire management authorities
  • finance - to use resources cost-effectively and to manage fires with financial accountability.
  • compliance - to ensure fire management and suppression activities comply with all statutory and contractual obligations.

The application of a risk management approach to fire management within OEH is designed to minimise the negative impact of planned and unplanned fire.


Fire management planning assists in defining the strategies and actions to be implemented to achieve the primary fire management objectives of OEH. OEH implements several tiers of planning, which include:


OEH participates as a member of the NSW Bush Fire Coordinating Committee and assists the Committee to develop and review policies and procedures relating to fire management.

OEH also participates as a member of bush fire management committees (BFMCs) and assists in the development of Bush Fire Risk Management Plans. These plans are cooperative and integrate OEH fire management strategies into a wider multi-agency framework.

Strategic policy developed by OEH provides for consistency within the OEH and coordination between the OEH and other fire and land management authorities. The Fire Management Manual is an example of strategic policy relating to fire.

Fire management strategies and fire plans

Reserve Fire Management Strategies are map based plans that define the management approaches for either individual or groups of reserves. They are developed in conjunction with reserve neighbours and contain risk mitigation and fire suppression information and are used as the basis for prescribed burn planning. Reserve Fire Management Strategies use a system of zones to categorise sections of reserves with different management objectives. These zones are:

  • Asset Protection Zones (APZ) = the objective of an APZ is to protect human life and property. They are usually intensively managed areas where the overall fuel hazard is maintained at moderate or below. The protection of life and property takes precedence over biodiversity conservation in these zones.
  • Strategic Fire Advantage Zones (SFAZ) = the objective of a SAFZ is to reduce fire intensity across larger areas by maintaining the overall fuel hazard at high or below. This is mostly done using prescribed burning. Biodiversity conservation will take precedence where practical.
  • Land Management Zones (LMZ) = the objective of a LMZ is to conserve biodiversity and protect cultural heritage. In stead of overall fuel hazard, the trigger for burning LMZs is based on biodiversity thresholds.

Download adopted Reserve Fire Management Strategies or review and make submissions on draft Reserve Fire Management Strategies.

OEH Regional Operations Plans outline the annual works programs which are prepared for the purpose of planning and prioritising the implementation of Reserve Fire Management Strategies.

Additionally, an Incident Action Plan (IAP) is prepared for each bushfire suppression operation on OEH managed land.

Environmental Impact Assessments

Fire management activities can greatly impact on the environment and have the potential to degrade both natural and cultural heritage values across the landscape. The OEH has responsibilities under part 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 to consider the environmental impact of activities it carries out on its managed land however, the protection of life and property remains the primary fire management responsibility for OEH. In order to fulfil these legislative requirements, and to maintain and improve its environmental practices, OEH has established standards and guidelines for the environmental assessment of all fire management activities including prescribe burning, mechanical hazard reduction and bushfire suppression operations.

Page last updated: 11 April 2017