Cowboy Victorian developers who do building work without a permit could get five years in jail and almost half a million dollars in fines.

But the new penalties comes too late to punish the developers who sparked outrage when they knocked down the 160-year-old Corkman Hotel in Carlton in October.

That illegal demolition forced the government into introducing new offences and fines for illegal building and demolition work.

"This is of course as a result of the cowboy developers at the Corkman Hotel who illegally demolished the hotel without any demolition permit, and indeed without any planning permit in place," Planning Minister Richard Wynne told reporters on Tuesday.

Anyone who orders or carries out building work without a permit could be jailed for up to five years, face an individual fine of $93,276, and a corporate fine of $466,380.

That's on top of any other fines that could be levied through other means, including building and environmental authorities.

Mr Wynne said the penalties were in line with those for doing illegal work on heritage-listed buildings.

Courts will also have the power to intervene and prevent any building work that contravenes the Building Act.

That could include halting building or demolition work, requiring rectification works or a rebuild, or stopping someone operating as a building practitioner.

Mr Wynne said the government and the City of Melbourne was at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal trying to get an order forcing the developers to rebuild the demolished pub.

Opposition planning spokesman David Davis strongly supported the changes.

"Irresponsible developers should not be able to thumb their nose at the law and at the community," Mr Davis said.

  • This is a welcome development.

    How much of an effect it has, however, will depend upon the willingness of authorities to prosecute and courts to impose maximum penalties. Too often, we write laws which carry the threat of jail time but yet no one has actually been sentenced.

    • Hi Rob ,
      So True, Even though authorities do their best to prosecute the culprits. The sentencing does come from the Judges. Unless they can take it seriously. The written law becomes futile.

    • Too often we write laws which are unnecessary.

      As with children, you don't seek to have something happen and not make sure it does. If you do, soon not only will there be rationally agreed reasons for not doing so there will be flagrant examples where you are not given the opportunty to consider argument.

      With children there is another key. Don't ask too much. Keep your demands (or requests) to what you see as necessary minimums; leaving them space to develop. Arrange for requirements not to take excessive time away from what the child finds interesting.

      Can we argue that we do that with society? Not by a long shot. We cannot even argue that we get rid of our useless old laws. We certainly cannot argue that we maintain efficiency vis a vis the rest of the world through their implementation. We may rightly argue that we achieve many valuable goals but there is a cost and when that cost involves liberty it deserves the finest consideration.

      This is not the liberty I was talking about above but we could also give consideration to what 5 years out of someones life means. This is no light punishment. It could easily be punishment related to unreasonable expectation. That can come in all flavours in itself. The costs and hoops for example that some have to go through to achieve a result that was always likely can be massive and apparently interminable. This disregard by government and its operatives for the lives and work of people they serve is not always justifiable by the public good.

      We cannot expect perfection in this but we can expect focus and constant concern to minimise the drag on those who build for the future. With the abilty to choose comes responsibilty, its removal requires policing; a poor alternative.

  • Thanks Gordon. What about the many non-permits with buildings built and permits issued after the event. What of the permits and stages of buildings approved – and then when the builder has run away the owners has Building Orders issued against them for the stages 'approved' for the builders, for which the owner has already paid? What about the whole farcical system of rules that are never enforced? The laws we now have are meaningless – almost zero prosecutions, and the especially 'protected no matter what' are the 'registered' class! I agree with Rob. Further I know that if any 'law' is passed, it is unlikely any case will ever make it to a court. This is purely a response to community outrage and more of the customary spin. Nothing is about to change!