Slight Change of Heart and a New Opportunity

It’s been a mad couple of weeks. I have been very busy with work and other activities and the property search has changed forms somewhat.

I am going to be honest. My interest in Victoria has waned. Regular commenter here, Sam, asked me in an email a few weeks ago whether there’s a chance I would feel lonely living so far away from everything and everybody in West Wimmera. I was quite defensive initially but my mood changed. It’s a huge thing I am taking on. It’s a huge change of life. And as much as West Wimmera is only a 4 hour coach trip from Adelaide it’s a 4 hour coach trip from Adelaide! Financially and time-wise not something I can do on a whim.

Short story, I went and viewed a block a lot closer to Adelaide last weekend. Much different than what I have been looking for but good nonetheless. It is smaller, 1/2 acre, and based in a tiny village but it provides for my needs. Public transport is regular and cheap. The village has a pub and a post office. Services are 20km to the east and west. And the price is right.

What’s more, the First Home Owner Grant I am entitled to will almost offset the cost of buying the land and building a small straw bale house on it. This combined with the fact that it’s an easy weekend or day trip out to the block means that I can ease into this lifestyle a lot better. I can be experimental. And, if I change my mine, or want to buy somewhere else, I am much more likely to profit from the investment.

That’s where I am at.

Building in a Bushfire Zone: The Victorian Regulation

Well that was some interesting bedtime reading. Far from light. I went read through the Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO) and Bushfire Protection: Planning Requirements. As I mentioned in my previous post, the block I am looking at in East Gippsland is affected by the BMO.

As I had hoped, it got me thinking. I could submit an application addressing all the criteria – I’m going to use these fancy, BAL*-FZ rated windows, and this fibre cement cladding at $200sq/m. That would put me in good stead to having the application approved. It certainly shows an appreciation of the risk and a commitment to my use of the land.

*BAL Stands for Bushfire Activity Level. The BAL at a particular point is determined by such things as the vegetation class, e.g. forest, scrub, grasslands; gradient of the land; and distance of the proposed building from the vegetation. BAL-LOW and BAL-12.5 are pretty safe. BAL-FZ is extremely risky. 

Fire. Not something to be messed with. This is a picture of the Black Saturday fires that really shook up Victoria.

But the costs. I haven’t priced a BAL-FZ or BAL-40 build yet but I can see it significantly adding to the budget. Considering the size of my proposed dwelling – 18sq/m – it won’t be that much of a blow out, I simply don’t need that many square metres of this higher quality material. However, it will add up and it defies the initial concept. The initial concept was to build a cheap tiny house out of salvaged materials. In short, the sort of place that you could let a bushfire have its way with and not be too upset. The sort of place that could easily be rebuilt – it’s only a house.

I have a feeling, though, that the council wouldn’t take to that idea so well. So I arrive at a cross road – do I keep looking or do I proceed with this one? I believe I can address the criteria satisfactorily. However, is it worth the cost? And, is it worth living in such a risky area?