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Truth in zoning

The supply of land for housing development is influenced by zoning, subdivision approvals and the development approval process.

HIA's Position Statement

  1. Governments (being all governments or relevant authorities) should provide certainty in the application of planning controls on residential land.
  2. In applying planning and environmental controls to land, Governments should firstly verify and then disclose all known constraints which they intend to apply and at which stages of the development process.
  3. The key stages at which known constraints should be declared and applied by governments are:
    • Designation for urban development;
    • Zoned for urban development;
    • Subdivision planning approval; and
    • Registration of title and sale or redevelopment of lots.
  4. The known constraints should only be applied by Governments at the designated stage in the development assessment process. (as set out in Attachment A)
  5. If a constraint is missed, or unknown, by a government at an earlier stage of development, it cannot be retrospectively applied unless appropriate compensation is provided to the property owner for the reduced development rights.
  6. All major constraints on land should be accounted for by the build stage (that is prior to stage 4: registration of title) leaving builders, and home buyers, to only account for site layout, setback matters and known environmental constraints as outlined in council planning schemes.
  7. Requests from councils to apply constraints that have no foundation in state planning schemes or documents incorporated within planning schemes should be rejected outright.


  • The supply of land for housing development is influenced by zoning, subdivision approvals and the development approval process.
  • Developers and builders face a range of barriers to building on residentially zoned land that can be applied at any stage of the land and housing supply pipeline.
  • Many constraints affecting the supply of land for housing:
    • emerge in planning scheme requirements after land has been zoned for residential purposes
    • have a layered approach and a cumulative effect on the development that can ultimately take place on a single parcel of land
    • can quarantine or sterilise land from development at any stage of the process, despite being zoned for residential purposes
    • can relate to the risk of natural hazards or to broader social or environmental concerns that are not specific to a single parcel of land and
    • are being applied to zoned land retrospectively.
  • Some constraints relate to mapping of natural threats such as anticipated threat of bushfire or sea level rise/inundation, threatened species identification.
  • Others can be non-environmental and can include heritage matters, presence of easements and other design and development related requirements.
  • While each is a potentially valid claim for land to be preserved or development to be managed in a specific way, in many cases the request by authorities to address these constraint is made at an inappropriate stage of the development process resulting in significant delays and additional costs.
  • In some cases, this can result in highly valued residential land being removed from the land supply pipeline as no longer appropriate for development.
  • The outcome is that despite land being residentially zoned the heightened level of uncertainty results in financial risk, additional costs, delays and ultimately a restriction on the supply of build ready land.
  • Governments need to be responsible for providing greater certainty over when constraints are applied to land through the zoning, subdivision and development approval processes to ensure that land owners are aware of all potential matters that may affect the future use of that land for residential purposes at the earliest possible time.

Attachment A - Constraints on Land and their Application by Authorities

This attachment seeks to provide a list of constraints that are typically applied in the zoning, subdivision and planning approval processes and nominates the preferred stages in the land supply pipeline that HIA considers they should be identified or applied (if they are to be included at all).

The changing planning environment means that this is an indicative list that remains live and able to be adjusted over time. HIA policy position sets out the nature of the problem and industry’s preferred approach. The stages are intended to mirror the six stages of land development identified by the National Housing Supply Council (2010). For the purposes of this Policy they have been combined where appropriate.

Stage 1 designation of land for urban development zone

The constraints listed below should be identified prior to designation of land of urban development zone.

Constraints to be identified when land is Designation for Urban Development
Open space Open space allocation including major regional open space parks already operational, includes State and National Parks 
Airports Location of airports and environs, includes any future airfields

Freight and major road links

Major Infrastructure Pipelines for utilities including gas and electricity
Facilities for renewable energy Any area set aside for wind farms or similar.

Stage 2 zoned for urban development

The constraints listed below should be identified prior to rezoning any land from a general Urban Growth/Future Urban zone or rural zonings to a specific purpose zone, e.g. residential, public land, special purpose zonings.

Also at this stage planning scheme overlays or structure plans may be prepared which might also seek to apply a constraint on land e.g. identification of flood prone land, heritage areas, site coverage (density), slip, slope, subsidence and so forth. These constraints should also be declared at this stage to increase certainty for land owners.

Constraints to be Identified when land is Zoned for Urban Development
Land management overlays
  • Erosion management overlay
  • Salinity management overlay
  • Floodway overlay
  • Land subject to inundation overlay
  • Special building overlay
  • Bushfire management overlay
  • State resource overlay 
Other overlays
  • Public acquisition overlay
  • Airport environs overlay
  • Environmental audit overlay
  • Road closure overlay
  • Restructure overlay
  • Development contributions plan overlay
  • Toll Road overlay
  • Parking overlay
Alpine areas
  • Framework for planning alpine resorts
  • Sustainable development in alpine areas
  • Protection of habitat
  • Location of threatened species
  • Native vegetation management
Sea level rise/coastal issues
  • Protection of coastal areas threat of coastal inundation and erosion
  • Bushfire planning strategies and principles. 

Stage 3 subdivision planning approval

The constraints listed below should be identified prior to the subdivision planning approval for lot designs. These constraints are normally addressed through the subdivision application process, whereby relevant studies are undertaken before the issue of a subdivision planning approval, and potentially, relevant actions are required to be carried out before the completion of a subdivision to confirm or address the impact of these constraints on land.

Constraints to be identified by Subdivision Planning Approval
Soil degradation
  • Use of contaminated and potentially contaminated land
  • Erosion and landslip
  • Salinity
Noise and air
  • Noise abatement, air quality
  • Wetlands and storm water planning
  • Heritage conservation
  • Aboriginal cultural heritage
Layout of built environment
  • Neighbourhood subdivision site and context description and design response
  • Lot design location and design of residential development
  • Access and mobility management
  • Integrated water management
  • Utilities location
  • Any design requirements for safety
  • Cycling networks
Location of commercial centres/public transport networks
  • Principal Public Transport Network
  • Road system
  • Waste and resource recovery
Community infrastructure
  • Health facilities
  • Education facilities
  • Day Care facilities
  • Recreation facilities
  • Bushfire prone areas

Where the ‘subdivision planning approval’ occurs after the civil works construction approval (and the required civil works are completed), the constraints in the table above should be identified during stage 2 (Rezoning).

Stage 4 registration of title

Once lots are registered and sold any constraints that continue to apply to future development of the site should only be those related to the individual lot. These constraints should be clearly specified in relevant publicly available planning information available to the owner of that site. The following matters may be identified as the remaining issues for consideration in the design of a new building:

Constraints that are considered acceptable if applied to an individual lot (or group of lots)
Planning requirements relating to the individual allotment may include:
  • Site layout and building massing
  • On-site amenity and location of facilities/utilities
  • Detailed design factors
  • Neighbourhood character considerations
  • Single tree removal requirements
  • Restrictive covenants
  • Any common property type infrastructure required as a result of creating more than one allotment including utilities and creation of common property
  • Minimum floor levels (for construction in flood prone areas)
  • Bushfire rating levels (for construction in bushfire prone areas)

Policy endorsed by HIA National Policy Congress: May 2013; Re-endorsed with amdts 2018; Amended 2019.

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