Surveyors Glossary

Here are some simple explanations for terms commonly used in this industry. This glossary is descriptive only, and should not be relied upon. You must seek professional advice before making any decisions regarding these matters.

Archaeological Assessment – When Councils are considering many development applications that involve a change of land use, such as subdivision, they may require this report. A qualified Archaeologist will assess the likelihood of indigenous artifacts being found during development, and make recommendations about the management of the site during the development process.

Asset Protection Zones – Many development applications over land adjoining bushland will need to incorporate a Bushfire Management Plan. One of the main protection measures are Asset Protection Zones, which ensure a separation between the bushland and habitable dwellings.

Australian Height Datum – This is an agreed height of the average sea level around Australia. That level is known as 0.0m AHD.

Azimuth – This term is used by surveyors to describe the process by which all surveys are correctly oriented.

Boundary Realignment – This term means that a common boundary between adjacent lots is to be relocated.

Building Certificate – The local Council will issue a Building Certificate based on the surveyor’s Identification Report. This is part of the documentation needed for the sale of a property.

Building Envelope – The building envelope is an area identified on the plan of subdivision as the space within which any dwelling may be constructed. It is typically used to ensure that dwellings are not constructed too close to a site constraint, such as bushfire setbacks from boundaries.

Civil Engineering – The Civil Engineer is responsible for the design of all works to be constructed. These include roads, drainage, water and sewer systems. All designs are lodged with the relevant authority for approval and the issue of a Construction Certificate.

Community Title Subdivision – This type of development creates lots with Community Title. It involves the development of Common Property within the project. For example, private roads and recreational facilities such as a golf course may form part of the Estate, and these are used and maintained by all residents in the scheme.

Covenant – A covenant is an agreement between the vendor and the purchaser that the purchaser will not do certain things.

Conveyancing – This is the legal process of transferring title (ownership) to a purchaser.

Crown Land – This term means that a particular site has never been “alienated” or sold by the Government.

Development Application – Most improvements to land require the preparation and negotiation of a development application with the Consent Authority. That authority is usually the local Council.

Detail Survey – This term refers to a survey of the natural and man-made attributes of a site. It will include such things as contours, significant trees, adjoining houses, services and the road frontage.This plan is used by architects and planners to design further improvements, and will be required by Council to support any application for works.

Easement – An easement may advantage an owner by granting a right over another property (such as to drain along an easement). Conversely that owner may be burdened, by giving others the right to use an easement over their property. Easements can be created for many reasons, including drainage lines, access arrangements and services.

88B Instrument – This Instrument is a legal document that accompanies a survey plan showing an easement. It defines the rights of the owners of the properties burdened and benefited by such easements.

Geotechnical Advice – Geotechnical Engineers provide advice on a range of matters relating to the subdivision/development process. These can include reports on slope stability in steeper sites, road pavement thickness designs and lot classifications of the final product for building designs.

GPS – This term refers to the use of Global Positioning technology (satellites) to survey the coordinates of detail or survey marks.

Identification Survey – An Identification Survey makes sure that the purchaser is not inheriting problems which may make the property difficult to sell in the future. More importantly it ensures that the property that has been shown is the one being bought and will often reveal defects which may devalue the property or require expensive repairs.

Lot – This refers to a separately identifiable piece of land, part of a building or vacant space which is created when a subdivision plan is registered. A lot can be zoned as either residential or commercial.

Mean High Water Mark – Any land that abuts a body of water is known to have a Riparian Boundary. The land beneath most water bodies is usually owned by the Crown. In these cases, the average high water level is used as the common boundary, and is known as MHWM.

Minimum Floor Level – In low lying areas, many Councils require that a dwelling is constructed to a minimum floor level, to ensure that any potential floodwaters will not enter the house.

Monument – In Surveying, a monument is a physical feature that is shown on a plan of survey and assists in relocating a boundary.

Old System Title – When Australia was first settled by Europeans, the English Common Law concept of ownership was used. This system required that a line of ownership had to be established back to the original grant. This system was eventually replaced by an Australian innovation known as Torrens Title, which is far easier and safer to use.

Pegout Survey – This is a survey to locate the corners of a dwelling or other structure to be constructed. It may also refer to the marking of lot boundaries.

Plan of Subdivision – At the conclusion of a development, a plan of subdivision is prepared by the Surveyor and then certified by both Council and the State Government. That plan will show the boundary dimensions of all lots and any easements or restrictions. From that process, Certificates of Title are produced for each new lot.

Positive Covenant – A positive covenant is an agreement between the vendor and the purchaser that the purchaser will do certain things, such as maintaining an Asset Protection Zone to ensure that it meets performance standards.

Primary Application – A Primary Application is the process by which Old System Titled land is transferred into Torrens Title. It requires a thorough survey of the surrounds to ensure that all owners have the area of land guaranteed by title available to them.

Reference Mark – These are special marks placed near surveyed boundaries to assist in relocating lot corners.

Restriction on Use of Land – This is a specific form of easement that places some limitation on the use of a parcel by its owner. For example, a developer may wish to ensure that no houses are constructed on an estate below a certain size.

Site Contamination Report – These reports are usually prepared by a specialist consultant to determine whether a site may be affected by chemical contamination. The assessment relies on a site inspection, a review of the site’s history of use and testing of soils.

SSM/PM – State Survey Marks or Permanent Marks are marks placed to the specifications of Government to assist in redefining lot boundaries. They are generally a bronze circular marker placed in concrete kerbs, or a metal pin placed in a metal box for protection.

Strata Title Subdivision – This type of subdivision creates a title deed for part of a building, and may be a “box” of air space, such as a unit on the 3rd floor.

Subdivision – The process of transforming one parcel of land into two or more parcels, each with its own Certificate of Title.

Theodolite – An instrument used for measuring horizontal and vertical angles. Modern instruments also include the capacity to measure distances.

Torrens Title – This system of titling was created in South Australia, and is now used in many countries throughout the world. Essentially it establishes a guarantee to title of land, which is backed by the relevant State Government. No such guarantee applies to Old System title.

Urban Planning – In the context of this practice, urban planning involves the preparation of urban or industrial layouts for a proposed project. These layouts include roads, traffic flow, utilities, housing density, shopping centres and schools etc to support a development application.

Bannister & Hunter can prepare other supporting documentation such as a Statement of Environmental Effects. The whole package is then lodged with council for determination which will often involve lengthy negotiation between the interested parties.