What data informed these insights?

This insights article updates the 2019 Urban Development Program - Greenfield with recent development data to the end of the calendar year 2020. The article also describes how the data is now collected which enables information to be updated more frequently.

The 2019 Urban Development Program (UDP) collects data and reports on supply and development of residential greenfield land, major redevelopment sites, as well as industrial uses across metropolitan Melbourne. In effect it monitors where Melbourne is growing.

2020 results

The 2019 Urban Development Program – Greenfields includes data for lots with a title (or lots that have been subdivided to enable people to build houses on them) up to the September quarter 2020. The number of lots with a title is an indication of recent land development activity as well as a leading indicator of near future dwelling construction. This data was included to demonstrate the impact of the COVID19 pandemic on greenfield development and has recently been updated for the entire calendar year 2020.

Figure 1: Number of lots released with a title in Melbourne’s growth areas has increased in recent years (Source: DELWP) - double click legend item to show that LGA or region only

Figure 1 shows the number of Lots with a title released in 2020 (22,740) was slightly higher than the pre-pandemic year of 2019 (22,288).

Most of the greenfield titled lots in 2020 have occurred in the western part of Melbourne, with nearly 56% in Melton and Wyndham. In 2019, Melton and Wyndham had a combined share of 47% of the greenfield lots with a title released in Melbourne.

Figure 2: In 2020 most of the titled lots were released in western part of Melbourne (Source: DELWP)

The high number of lots released is verified by record levels of building approvals in the greenfield areas. Building approvals across the city will be the focus of a future Research Matters article.

Figure 3: 2020 was a record year for building approvals in the growth area councils (Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics)

Why and how the method changed

As part of its continuous improvement, the data collection method for the UDP – Greenfield was overhauled in 2018. The greenfield program monitors the supply of greenfield residential land in the growth areas from englobo land (very large lots ) through to its subdivision into retail lots for people to build houses on.

Old Method

Developed in the 1990s, the method originally used the interpretation of hard copy aerial photographs with the information transcribed into a Computer Aided Design (CAD) system. Once geo-referenced aerial imagery became common place, the same method was adapted for Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The use of GIS sped up the collection and accuracy of data, however, it was still labour intensive. Aside from the labour intensity of the method, the other chief drawbacks were:

  • Timeliness of aerial photography - flying aerial photography is subject to weather conditions such as cloud, fog, smoke, etc. This can lead to delays in collecting data and extend the window data is collected in.
  • Coverage of aerial photography – the method relied exclusively on aerial photography. Areas of interest, such as regional cities, could only be collected if imagery was available for them.

Current Method

The current method uses property boundary data to identify where land has been recently subdivided or is in the administrative process of being subdivided. The use of this data ties the monitoring to stages of the statutory processes and provides:

  • more robust and reliable data,
  • more timely and regular release of data; and
  • the ability to monitor greenfield type development across the state.

The method results in a development pipeline (Figure 4) split into two land supply categories (englobo greenfield land supply and retail lot supply) and four stages of development.

Figure 4: Greenfield development pipeline from englobo land to retail lots (Source: DELWP)

The two stages in the englobo greenfield supply category

Land requiring a Precinct Structure Plan (PSP). This is englobo land that has been identified for future residential development through the Growth Corridor Plans, logical inclusions process and other strategic processes. It is typically currently zoned Urban Growth Zone. This category will eventually cease to exist once all the unzoned land undergoes the PSP process and becomes zoned and available to be developed. It provides an estimate of the potential retail lot yield within a precinct.

Land that has undergone the PSP process. The land is zoned and available for subdivision into smaller retail lots in accordance with the structure plan that is part of the schedule to the Urban Growth Zone. This stage provides a more certain estimate of the lot yield as it is based on the land budget provided as part of the PSPs.

The two stages in the retail lot supply category

Land that has been included as “proposed” within the Vicmap Parcel dataset. Some changes to these lots may occur before they receive a title.

Land that has been registered and provided with a title. This data is sourced from Vicmap Parcel dataset. These are the locations where dwellings will be built in the very near future.


Location and number of dwellings. This data is sourced Building Approvals (ABS) for approvals and Housing Development Data (DELWP) for completions.

But what does this look like on the ground?

Figure 5: Land in different stages of the greenfield development pipeline (Source: DELWP)

Sample of aerial imagery showing stages of supply

Figure 5 shows englobo land (Unzoned and Zoned) is undeveloped and typically being used for existing agricultural uses (including farmhouses). Proposed lots are in various stages of development. Some show no evidence of land development activity, such as building roads, which suggests they are early in the subdivisional process. Other proposed lots have road bases or even finished roads and are close to being ready for consumers to build houses on. Lots with a title are ready for houses to be built on them. Figure 2 shows some houses have been built or are in the process of being built on these lots.

Changes in the near future

To help make data more available, the UDP data will be released in new ways including an online GIS tool to enable non-GIS users the ability to interrogate individual parcels of land as well as create maps. Stay tuned to Insights for more news.