A hearing is a formal part of the resource consent submission process that gives the applicant, and all submitters who stated in their submission that they wished to be heard, the opportunity to formally present their views to the hearings committee.
They are usually held when there are issues raised by submitters that have not been resolved, or if the applicant does not agree with the resource consent conditions recommended by us.
The first step is usually a pre-hearing meeting. In some cases a site visit might be undertaken before the meeting if it is considered that it would help achieve a better understanding of the proposal
What is a pre-hearing meeting?
Pre-hearing meetings are arranged by us to provide an informal forum for discussion between the resource consent applicant and submitters.
It is not mandatory that a pre-hearing meeting be held. However, we encourage applicants to proceed with a pre-hearing meeting in instances where issues of concern are likely to be resolved or assist in narrowing the matters to be considered at the formal hearing.
What's the aim of a pre-hearing meeting?
- Gain a clearer understanding of the applicant's proposal and its environmental implications.
- Identify any additional information required.
- Identify and discuss the issues and concerns, including those of submitters.
- Identify options that might resolve the issues and concerns.
- Facilitate any ongoing consultation required to work through or resolve outstanding issues.
Who attends a pre-hearing meeting?
- The applicant.
- Submitters – all submitters who requested to be heard are strongly encouraged to attend the pre-hearing meeting as resolving issues at a pre-hearing meeting may mean that a formal hearing is not required.
- A chairperson – this is usually the Council's environmental planner who is processing the application or an independent facilitator who is considered to have neutral views.
- Council staff – staff attend the meeting to clarify any issues about our functions and the resource consent process.
If the applicant or submitter(s) do not attend, their views may not been taken into account.
When will the pre-hearing meeting be held?
Pre-hearing meetings are usually held as soon as possible after the closing date for submissions. Timing may vary depending on whether further information from the applicant or further consultation is required. Generally, all parties will receive a letter outlining the date, time and venue for the meeting about two weeks in prior to the meeting.
Whenever possible, the meeting will be held at an appropriate venue as close to the location of the proposed activity as possible, e.g. a local community hall. Often the Civic Centre is the venue of the pre-hearing meeting.
Hearings are run by our Hearing Committee. The committee is made up of councillors, one of whom is the chairperson, and three commissioners chosen for their knowledge in the matter to be considered. Hearings may also be run by independent commissioners.
Although the procedures for a hearing are more formal than at a pre-hearing meeting, we will make the process as comfortable and non-threatening as possible for participants.
When is a hearing required?
A hearing is required if we consider it necessary, or if the applicant or a submitter requests a hearing.
If a proposal requires consents from Taranaki Regional Council as well as us, a joint hearing may be held. A joint hearing enables all relevant consent authorities to hear the same evidence at the same time, rather than parties having to present their information separately. Normally a decision will be made jointly but issued separately.
What happens before a hearing?
- All parties will receive notice of the date, time and venue for the hearing at least 10 working days beforehand.
- Our report and recommendations on the application will be circulated to the applicant and to all submitters who indicated that they wished to speak at the hearing at least 15 working days before the hearing is held.
- The applicant and the submitters are asked to provide 15 copies of their written evidence at the hearing.
- Applicants must provide all their evidence to the Council 10 working days before the hearing.
- Submitters calling expert evidence must provide that evidence to the applicant and the Council five working days before the hearing.
- If any person intends to give written or spoken evidence in Maori, the hearings coordinator must be informed of this at least five working days before the hearing so that a qualified interpreter can be provided. Alternatively, the person giving evidence may provide their own interpreter.
- We may be able to provide presentation equipment, e.g. an overhead projector. Anyone wishing to use such equipment should contact us at least five working days before the hearing to make these arrangements.
What happens at a hearing?
- The chairperson of the hearing committee opens the hearing, introduces the parties involved, identifies the applications being considered and decides on any administrative details such as the hearing timetable, specific requests, etc.
- The applicant (or their representatives) then presents their application and calls any experts they may have to provide evidence in support of their application.
- Submitters who indicated they wished to be heard at the hearing are then given the opportunity to present their submissions. They will have the opportunity to use experts or representatives to provide evidence in relation to their submission if they wish.
- The applicant then has the right of reply, to respond to any issues raised by the submitters.
- After the applicant has completed their reply, the chairperson will then close the public part of the hearing. The hearing committee will then retire to consider their decision.
- In some circumstances the committee may decide to adjourn the hearing to allow time for further information to be provided, or for further consultation to occur.
What are the rules?
- The applicant and every submitter who stated that they wished to be heard, may speak and call expert evidence at the hearing – either in person or through a representative, e.g. consultant, lawyer, technical expert.
- The chairperson or any member of the hearing committee may address questions to any of the parties at any stage of the hearing.
- No cross-examination of parties is allowed. In some cases, at the discretion of the chairperson, other parties may seek clarification of particular points by asking questions through the chairperson.
- If there are several parties who wish to speak on the same issue the chairperson may, in order to minimise repetition, limit the time each party may speak.
- The applicant's right of reply must be confined to matters arising out of the evidence or any legal points that require clarification. No new issues may be introduced at this stage.
What happens after the hearing?
The decision, and the reason for it, will be made in writing. The decision is usually notified no later than 15 working days after the hearing. The applicant and all submitters, even those who chose to not attend the hearing or speak in support of their submission, will receive a copy of the decision.
You can appeal if you don't like the decision or some of the consent conditions. If your application for a resource consent was not publicly notified, or it was publicly notified but did not receive any submissions, you can either:
- Object to the decision under Section 357 of the RMA. This requires us to reconsider its decision. The reasons for any objection must be set out in writing and received by us within 15 working days of you receiving the decision letter. You may go through a hearing process. If you are still unhappy with our decision, you may appeal to the Environment Court.
- Appeal directly to the Environment Court (without first requiring us to reconsider our decision) under Section 121 of the RMA.
If your application did receive submissions, you or any of the submitters can appeal the decision to the Environment Court under Section 121 of the RMA.
An appeal must be lodged with the Environment Court within 15 working days of receiving the notice of the decision. A $55 filing fee must accompany your notice of appeal. Appeals must be lodged with the Registrar of the Environment Court at the following address:
Registrar Environment Court
PO Box 5027
Your notice of appeal should be made on the form available from the Environment Court and state the reasons for the appeal and what it is you are seeking, e.g. for the consent to be declined, or some conditions of the consent to be changed. Within five working days of the appeal being lodged, you must also:
- Serve a copy of the notice of appeal on the people who made submissions on your application, and;
- Serve a copy of the notice of appeal on the Council.