Last month the Western Australian government dramatically increased penalties for people illegally demolishing or damaging heritage-listed buildings.

Not only was the maximum fine increased to $1 million but, crucially, a 10-year development moratorium and a restoration order could be imposed on the affected site.

The changes were announced a few weeks before the Wellington-based Chow brothers announced plans to replace the heritage-listed Palace Hotel (which suddenly began to collapse during renovations last November) with a 10-level glass box.

You can't help wondering if the venerable old building in inner-city Victoria St might still be standing if such legislation was in force here.

It's the lack of remorse of the Chow brother brothel-owners that really rankles. They breeze into Auckland from their Wellington base, buy up one of the city's few remaining Victorian, street-corner brick pub buildings and then, under their watch, it suddenly starts to crack and slump.

To protect surrounding properties, Auckland Council had to hastily demolish the 124-year old building. What do the Chow brothers do? They come out all guns blazing.

It's all the council's fault. Not a word of apology. Just threats of litigation against the council and rejection of the $200,000 bill the city has presented as the cost of demolition.

The closest to contrition I have seen was a written statement last week announcing the redevelopment plans and concluding "it was sad to see it torn down but the new development will be better than ever".

In Saturday's Weekend Herald, John Chow complained of lack of consultation on the fateful night of November 17.

"Within hours they make a decision. I come to your house, I demolish your house and send you $200,000 bill. How you feel. How you feel. Honest."

Well, this Aucklander says, "You come to my city, you excavate under a loved heritage building until it starts to crumble. My council has to knock it down. How do I feel? I feel angry."

Mr Chow argued that because there was no one in the building next door "there's no health and safety issue".

The devastation caused in Christchurch by old masonry buildings falling against each other shows what nonsense he talks.

As for being sent a bill for the demolition work, I too might have felt sick if I was in his shoes. But sick at being the custodian of a heritage building that collapsed because of excavations being conducted under my watch.

Council chief executive Doug McKay, who led the on-site crisis team, said at the time that the building had continued to move towards the road all evening - "windows were spontaneously cracking and the building was in danger of imminent collapse".

A passerby who leaned against the wall as it first moved said: "The walls were cracking like an eggshell."

Last month's report to the council by three leading engineering firms concluded the damage was "widespread, severe and irrecoverable".

They concluded the collapse of the Palace Hotel was caused by the basement floors not being adequately supported, by the removal of the timber floor, by the removal of the concrete basement floor "designated to be retained in the approved plans" and by over-excavation of the foundations.

This report has been before the Crown Solicitor for a month, seeking advice on possible prosecution. The Chows' response is to threaten court action against the council over "illegal demolition".

They've also found time to produce plans for a 10-level glass-fronted "super brothel" to replace the boutique brothel originally planned for the old pub. How do I feel about that? Angry.

Not because of the business planned. Prostitution is legal. Angry at the senseless loss of a heritage building and at the huge windfall gain the property owners stand to pocket as a result of the Palace Hotel demolition.

As a listed building, development on the site had been constrained by the existing structure. But as an empty site, the proposed 10-level glass box is within planning rules.

It seems likely the final act of the blame game will be carried out in court, with judges having to decide who was responsible for the "over-excavation" that made the situation "irrecoverable".

But for Auckland the result is already final. Another inner-city heritage building has hit the dust.

Back in 1992, the Clutha District Council took advantage of the shiny new Resource Management Act to prosecute a developer for destroying part of the Benhar Hoffman kiln. The perpetrators were fined $56,500 and also ordered to rebuild what they'd knocked down.

Whether that is a precedent in this case is unclear. As is the place of replicas, except as a disciplinary tool against errant developers.

What would concentrate the mind of developers, though, is the 10-year redevelopment moratorium on the affected site that is now law in Western Australia.

That would hurt developers in their most tender spot - their pockets.