Victorian governments of both persuasions are always under a relentless siege from developers who would like to build what they like, how they like, when they like and where they like— to hell with planners or people. Developers have well financed 'public relations' experts— spin doctors— who constantly recommend 'improvements' to our planning systems. Every one of them appear on the surface to improve efficiency, cut government red tape and reward the government with more revenue, but inevitably, the opposite happens, and attempts to put the worms back into the can, inevitably cost everybody dearly.
Such was the case when many years ago, the government bought the developer's spin that people should have the right to build whatever they like to build, without government bureaucratic intervention, so long as they only wanted to built a single dwelling to the building code. But who should police this if the responsible government authority, the local councils were to be kept out of it?. Some bright, powerful bunny suggested Building Surveyors would make good policemen, those blokes who knew which end of a nail should be hit and whether a 300 x 19 joist would span 2000mm, as opposed to town planners who were more interested in making sure that the people inside the houses had enough solar access and who were the adjudicators of the planning domain.
'Who me?' said the Building Surveyors, and they all rushed out and did a two-hour-long post-graduate degree in signing building permits and collecting a fee that shook the orthodontic dentistry's fee-charging apparatus to bits. But who was to police the building surveyors they asked? Why the Building Commission of course, because they were still smarting because they were downgraded to be under all those sheilas at the DSE. The Government thought that this new domain would keep them happy. And since they had a synergy with builders who now liked to call themselves developers, they could hive off a little domain of their own and do their own thing and they did.
So the Building Commission looked very closely at its workplace agreement, especially at the definition of a 'single dwelling' and found that there was no such thing. And in their infinite wisdom, that meant (to them) that anything, no matter how much it looked like a two or even twenty-unit block of apartments, or what questions a building surveyor might ask, as long as it meets the building regulations, it's a single dwelling if one chooses to title it so and so, part of our Parkinsonian pyramid.
It was a world first. No other government has our government's intelligence to think of such a brilliant scheme of having two domains for the same building. Why did no other Governments copy us? Need you wonder?
This scheme begat a spate of happy developers jumping onto the bandwagon and a lot of indignant local councils crying foul to the government because VCAT claimed that it was not allowed to reject anything that complied to the building regulations, even though VCAT appreciates that the existence of duplicated services 'increases the risk that there might be some attempt in the future to unlawfully convert single dwellings into more dwellings' And VCAT claimed that it is not allowed to adjudicate as to whether the very meaning of a single dwelling in English should mean a single dwelling in law. What a shame!.
Did the developers find a cosy foreign domain that is not within our system?
Let's have another look at this problem that we have from another perspective. If there is no definition of a single dwelling, then it follows that Building Surveyors have no domain, and what they thought was their domain turns out to be a domain in title only. It then follows that the Responsible Authorities, the local Councils, can then claim domain over any building whatever it is titled. Following this reasoning, if a developer is allowed to call multi units a single dwelling and a building surveyor is able to give permit for units as a single dwelling, then local councils can equally lay claim of domain over any genuinely single dwelling because of that admitted (by the Building Commission and VCAT) lack of definition of a single dwelling.
So it seems that the Building Commission, in being too smart by half in exploiting this non-definition of a single dwelling, and has inadvertently chopped down the building surveyors' money tree and, to mix the metaphors further, has shot itself in the foot and could lose its last domain of single dwellings. What a opened can of nasty looking worms!
Does the government have the desire or wit to solve this problem? In your dreams! In all probability the government's master's spin doctors will advise their vassals (the politicians) to make a better definition of a single dwelling, or the government will enact legislation to allow VCAT members to not deny the obvious, that a single dwelling is a single dwelling if it is palpably obvious that it is a single dwelling. If that sounds confusing to you it IS. It's called deliberate obfuscation. At present it's a new twist of the old saying— if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, and waddles like a duck, and looks like a duck, it's obviously a hippopotamus.
The only lasting and logical solution is that ALL building must come within Planning Regulations and artificial domains must go.
What to do with all of those suddenly unemployed private building surveyors? Let's face it, they are at a top level of building and should have the best know-how for building— the very people we need in our society and what we need to ensure good modern building practice and to police its implementation. And it is a mark of civilisation that policing be done by a public service— not by private practice, however qualified or able they may be.