The sea change in Victoria's residential planning zones

September 26 2012

The sea change in Victoria’s residential planning zones has been driven by a combination of a pressing need to accommodate Melbourne’s burgeoning population, and a response to a vocal opposition to more intensive suburban development.

This has led to a major reform, introducing 3 new Residential Zones, with explicit Zone names and purposes.  There are also changes to the Mixed Use Zone affecting residential zoning.  Urbis has analysed these three zones, and characterised the zones as:


The uncertainty of the impact of these zones lies in the implementation.  The zones will be applied by each Council, and there is certain to be considerable local pressure in favour of more restrictive controls..

  • Areas with established heritage and character controls will be placed within the NRZ to limit development.
  • We expect that the GRZ will be the most commonly applied zone across Melbourne’s suburbs.
  • In contrast, the medium density RGZ is proposed to be introduced around activity centres and rail stations.

In addition, the structure of the zones will allow for schedules to be added by each Council.  This means there may be hundreds of different “zones” guiding residential development across Melbourne each seeking to deal with a particular locality.

Serious concerns for achieving housing targets

These reforms signal a clear move from a merits based assessment system to mandated outcomes. In particular, Urbis is concerned with the greater concentration on height rather than design.  For example, the 12.5m default height for the RGZ effectively limits developments to three storeys.  A previously mooted 13.5m default would have enabled four storeys to be constructed in this “Go zone”.

These mandates are likely to have impacts on the construction industry.  With less housing opportunities, this may impact on the already struggling sector, and could dampen jobs growth.

Melbourne benefited from Sydney’s inability to deliver affordable housing for many years. There is a real risk that these zones could place Melbourne in a similar situation to that faced by Sydney.  These reforms now expose Melbourne to the risk that by limiting the flexibility to respond to our changing population and its needs we will make provision of the ‘housing we need’ more difficult to achieve.


This article appears courtesy of

Back to news