Let me introduce you to a beautiful word that loops off the tongue, sweet soft and round. Englobo.

It is “an undeveloped lot, group of lots or parcel of land that is zoned to allow for, and capable of significant subdivision into smaller parcels under existing land use provisions.”

Land developers are an odd bunch. Always sniffing around local government trying to juggle a swift rezone, braying to the world about how every quick and sharp subdivision is an ‘Estate’ and every estate somehow a ‘Master Planned Community’, whining about the ‘red tape’ introduced to stop previous abuses, constantly calculating which infrastructure project will be approved next by government and whether it will deliver them an unearned capital gain.

Residential subdivision is a game for the very patient. From a developer’s point of view, the ideal is to buy cow paddocks ahead of rezoning, quietly sit on it for a few years while the city grows out around it and infrastructure develops, manage a subdivision plan through a compliant council, build roads and pipes and then dribble it out to builders and buyers, lot by lot.

Sharemarket-listed developers are a minority of developers. Their lot sales last year were around a tenth of building approvals, but their behavior is publicly visible – and instructive.

Lots settled Lots in development Disclosed end value Average lot value Years of supply
2011/12 No $ Billions ‘000
Australand 1108 21 300 8.0 531 19.2
Sunland 672 2 889 1.1 380 4.3
PEET 2 052 34 000 6.2 182 16.5
Mirvac 1 807 29 787 10.6 356 16,5
FKP 410 4 725 1.4 287 11.5
Lend Lease 2 059 2 68 006 13.0 191 33.0
Stockland 5 388 87 900 23.0 338 16.3
Totals 13 496 248 607 63 238 254 Av 18.4

Source: ASX Company reports

The biggest by far is Stockland, followed by Lend Lease. The eye opener is the size of their landbanks – calculated as last year’s lots sold divided by lots in development. Lend Lease holds a staggering 33 years worth of undeveloped land; the average is 18.4 years. Estimated end value a massive $63 billion.

In one sense this is farsighted corporate behavior. In another, landbanking developers hold us to ransom by limiting supply to drive up prices. They have land – hundreds of thousands of lots in development – but choose to ration it.

All this causes trouble for government. They want to limit sprawl, yet they need to house a growing population. Developers sail happily between these competing objectives and make their unearned increment. Melbourne’s urban boundary has grown 96,775 hectares since 2003 in an attempt to curtail developer rationing. Sadly, this has not suppressed land prices and developer margins – another worthy government objective.

This selfishness can be changed by astute application of land tax. Broadacre land zoned residential ought be taxed as if it were already in use. Developers would turn their holdings as quickly as possible, rather than hoarding it.

Land in Australia should be dirt cheap. Outstanding access to land ought be a national advantage, generously conferred by a loving government upon the citizens it represents. And it could, with a decent Land Value Tax.


  1. karl07-12-2012

    housing should not be considered an investment but a place to live for you and yr family…im content now for being a renter for life because i dont see any sense in being a debt slave to a mortgage so big that i will not be able to pay it in my life time…i have many friends with mortgages and a family and they are severly stuck-no holidays or days off work for them

  2. Forrest Gump07-12-2012

    This is criminal. I hope someone starts to lobby the government to have this system deemed illegal.

  3. John Jamieson12-12-2012

    After reading David Colyer’s article “Englobo” my first reaction was “land developers” are far from being an odd bunch. True land developers are those who try to embrace sustainable land use practices, enhancing the productive capacity of land to maximise its ability to sustain all life forms. “Land developers”, as described by Colyer in his introductory comments, are nothing more than pure land speculators who manipulate land control and ownership as a means of high-jacking the God-given rights of human beings to live in a harmonious community of people who wish to enjoy life, liberty and happiness during their days on Earth.

    The only times in a person’s life when all human beings can be considered equal (irrespective of race, colour, creed or persuasion) is at the point when they exit the womb and the point when they breath their last. As human beings we have become truly de-humanised, to the extent that the creation of robots is taking over the roles once performed by people. No longer do we actually communicate face to face at all levels of society, the vast majority of human beings now live far removed from Nature. Manipulation of the media by a small cartel of owners has ensured people no longer have the capacity to think for themselves, to actually stop and question who are their “leaders” and why was I born? Mass brain-washing has led to the current malaise, with people imagining that “land developers” actually develop land! The conditioning process, carefully controlled by the global cartel of Private Bankers, has successfully painted a picture that “everyone can be wealthy – just look how you can get exclusive use of our God-given land and resources and have these assets deemed Private Property!” Just step right in, we’ll give you a loan, don’t worry about the future, don’t listen to the small number of knockers – the increased value will offset any interest you pay us and the little bit that the tax office will take. Haven’t you heard of our negative gearing policy – you can claim a tax deduction for any property you buy! God stopped making land and resources a few billion years ago, we’ve barely scratched the surface! You can’t lose!We just hope that no-one ever questions our definition of “Land Developer” – if the truth ever gets out that we’re a bunch of Pirates who managed to dis-enfanchise humanity by conquest, elected ourselves to being the kings and princes of all we survey, the bubble will burst. Just don’t ever let anyone listen to those people who keep spouting that stuff Henry George the wacky Yank was going on about, otherwise the cat will be out of the bag! We’ve got all those dozy politicians under control, that’s why we helped set up the “Two Party Preferred” deal so that we could keep our finger on the pulse – the Money Pulse! Those dozy bums gave us the “green light” to get rid of your people’s bank – The Commonwealth Bank of Australia! Once we had that stitched up, we got them to get rid of those Land Taxes to fund their governments, except we let them have a little bit which was just to let everyone think we were all pretty good blokes! Of course we all know that there might be a few problems ahead, now that those Chinese fellows start getting their act together. Their government actually owns all their banks and they did away with people having land and resources as private property. They seem more interested in real development, you know,manufacturing industries, large scale public transport, making sure that everyone has a bit to eat and a roof over their haeds and a job. Of course they’re not into any of that welfare stuff, they prefer that people get up and do stuff, like in Nature. We’re a bit worried because they’re not into footy and cricket like us blokes down here in Melbourne. Hope those dozy voters and politicians keep good old Aussie just like we want it!

  4. Kristel22-02-2014

    Well said mate

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