The Australian building approval process is intense and requires several steps (and steps within steps). This makes sense for totally new construction, but why do renovations have to undergo this process as well? Renovations that change the structure of the existing building can have ripple effects, not only in the immediate part of the building where the renovations were but for the structure as a whole. The area surrounding the structure can be affected, too. The building approvals process might seem complicated, but it's well worth adhering to, and not just because you want to avoid fines.
The Codes Exist for a Reason
The building codes in each state exist for a reason. These codes ensure the building is as strong as possible and keeps the occupants as safe and as healthy as possible. You wouldn't want to live in a building that couldn't withstand a moderate quake, right? Well, the reason you can find buildings that are able to withstand moderate quakes is that there is a building code ensuring the structures meet that standard. The electricity you use is generally safe to access through wall outlets because electrical codes make it so. The building approvals process ensures that your project will meet or exceed building codes.
Partial Structural Changes Affect the Entire Structure
If you replace an interior door in your home or replace something like a toilet, you don't generally need building approvals for those. Those types of changes do not really affect the structure. But if you remove a couple of walls, for example, you would want permission because removing those walls could affect the structure as a whole, even if the walls aren't load-bearing. The wiring in the home would be affected at the very least. The approvals process ensures all of the work is done in an appropriate manner, and that the removal of the walls will not increase the risk of danger to anyone or anything in the structure.
The Approvals Protect You From Litigation
If you have work done on a structure that is not up to code and that did not have the approvals necessary, and someone is hurt in that structure, you may face legal consequences as that person sues you for creating a risky environment that led to their injury. If you can prove that you did everything you could to get approvals and build structures to code, you protect yourself.
When you decide to undertake massive renovations, work with your construction company and building surveyor to get the right building approvals in place first. You may not have to do much at all if the construction and surveying companies can handle all the paperwork for you.