Concerns about resource consent applications are most often resolved relatively inexpensively at pre-hearing meetings; a small number, however, progress to formal hearings.
A pre-hearing meeting is an informal forum which may be held if submissions are received on a notified resource consent application.
Pre-hearing meetings may be requested by a submitter or the applicant, but are usually initiated by Council staff where there are issues able to be resolved.
The purpose of a pre-hearing meeting is to:
- Clarify issues raised by submitters.
- Give the applicant an opportunity to consider the issues raised. and
- Find common ground that will allow the proposal to proceed without a formal hearing, while ensuring that the reasonable concerns of the submitters are adequately addressed.
Any of the submitters and the applicant can attend a pre-hearing meeting. Lawyers (in their legal capacity) are not encouraged to participate, but may attend as observers.
Pre-hearing meetings may be held at the subject site or as locally as possible, and may be held in the evening to enable people to attend. The meeting will be held as soon as possible after the submission period for the application has closed.
A Council officer will run the meeting and mediate the discussion. Everyone will be given the opportunity to have a say. The officer will circulate any resolutions to all parties. If some standard conditions can be agreed upon by all the submitters and the applicant, a hearing can be avoided. After a pre-hearing meeting a draft officer’s report is circulated to both the applicant and submitters (who may then withdraw their submission, or their request to be heard, if they have indicated they wish to speak at the jearing).
The report considers an assessment of the application under the Resource Management Act 1991, and includes proposed consent conditions, for example, environmental standards and monitoring requirements.
For a pre-hearing meeting to be successful:
- There must be the potential for resolution.
- All parties must be willing to find a solution.
A hearing is a formal forum for considering resource consent applications which have been publicly notified and where resolution on all matters has not been reached between the applicant and submitters. All parties have the opportunity to present their case to a Hearing Committee or Commissioner(s).
A hearing is required if the Council considers it necessary or the applicant or a submitter requests a hearing or the application is for a restricted coastal activity.The Council must hold a hearing within 25 working days of submissions closing. This time-limit may be extended by the Council, either on its own initiative or after a request from the applicant.
Before the hearing
The time and place for the hearing will be notified to all parties. The officer's report on the proposal, including a recommendation and conditions, if appropriate, will be forwarded to all parties prior to the hearing. Evidence to be presented by others at the hearing will also be circulated to all parties beforehand.
The mandatory deadlines for evidence and information exchange are as follows:
Information to be circulated
Due date for circulation
|The council officer's s42A report and any briefs of evidence from expert witnesses||15 working days before hearing|
|The applicant's evidence, including expert evidence||10 working days before hearing|
|Submitters who intend to call expert witnesses must make the written evidence of those experts available||Five working days before hearing|
The Hearing Committee
The Hearing Committee will consist of three or more Councillors, although in some circumstances one or two Councillors may make up the Hearing committee.
An independent commissioner may be appointed where there is a conflict of interest, for example, with the Council being the applicant, or where the Hearing Committee requires assistance with technical or scientific information.
The chairperson of the Hearing Committee will require all parties to the hearing to introduce themselves and will invite the applicant to introduce the proposal and call on any expert evidence.
Submitters are then invited to speak to their submission. Points can be elaborated on, but generally no new issues beyond the submission may be raised. Submitters can have a representative give their case for them.
Evidence is not given on oath.
The Council officer who prepared a report on the proposal and all issues raised in the submissions is then invited to comment on any of the evidence that has been given at the hearing.
Only the Hearing Committee may question any party or witness. There is no cross-examination. Staff may be invited to ask questions for the purpose of clarification.
A hearing will be held in public unless the Council considers it is necessary to protect sensitive information.
Evidence may be written or spoken in Maori. An interpreter will be provided. Five days advance written notice of evidence to be presented in Maori must be given to Council Consents staff so they can arrange an appropriate interpreter.
If a proposal requires consents from a District Council as well as the Taranaki Regional Council, a joint hearing may be held. A joint hearing will have representatives from all relevant consent authorities hearing the evidence at the same time, rather than parties having to present it separately. Normally a decision will be made jointly but issued separately.
A hearing allows people on both sides of an issue to have a say and contribute to the council’s decision-making process. You are doing your bit if you:
- Stick to the issues that concern you and that are relevant.
- Make your statement clear and easy to hear.
- Use professionals to back up your argument if that would help
- Show respect for the hearing, the hearings panel/commissioners, submitters, and for the hearing’s purpose.
- Don’t grandstand, or get into a debate.