Council processes, including resource consents, can seem formal, complicated and daunting. None more so than a Council resource consent hearing. This is usually a reasonably formal process, with a set format, speaking rights and times. Sometimes they can be tense and uncomfortable, especially if you’re there in opposition to someone’s development. It’s important that everyone involved remains professional, polite and respectful. But how do you get involved?
To be able to speak at a hearing, you need to have made a submission and confirmed that you “wish to be heard”. Stating you “wish to be heard” formally tells the Council and the applicant that you will come to the hearing and that you want to speak. You may seek specialist advice, such as from a planner or engineer. They will provide evidence on the issues raised in your submission.
Before the hearing
The Council will contact you before the hearing and confirm the hearing location, date and time. If possible, the hearing will be at a suitable location close to the application site. You must attend the hearing on the specific day if you wish to speak.
Before the hearing evidence will be “pre-circulated”. First you will receive the Council Officers’ evidence and reports. Next you will receive evidence from the applicant’s specialists. If you have specialists assisting you and providing evidence, they will be required to also write their evidence in advance of the hearing, and you must circulate it to the Council and the applicant on the deadlines given. These deadlines are set out in the Resource Management Act, and usually the Council will advise you of the dates for this to occur.
What happens at the hearing
The hearing is a reasonably formal process and is controlled via a Panel. This may include Councillors and/ or Commissioners and one person is the Chairperson. The Chairperson will introduce the hearing, outline the role of the Panel and set out how the hearing will proceed.
The applicant’s team is first to present their case. This may start with a legal representative giving opening submissions, followed by evidence from the applicants specialists.
Hopefully the Panel members will have pre-read the evidence, and it can be taken as read. This saves time, as it means the specialists don’t have to read out all their evidence and can just answer questions from the Panel. No one else can ask questions.
Next submitters present their cases. If specialists are presenting evidence on your behalf they will speak. You can speak also, either from a pre-prepared statement or more simply general comments. Again, the Panel can ask questions.
The Council officers are then asked to confirm their opinions and recommendations on the application, identifying any new or relevant issues for the Panel and commenting on evidence heard at the hearing.
Lastly, the applicants team has a “right of reply” to all the evidence heard at the hearing. The Panel will then adjourn or close the hearing, and made a decision on the resource consent application at a later time and in private.
After the hearing
After the hearing the Panel will made a decision on the resource consent application. They make this decision independently, with no input from the applicant, submitters or Council officers involved in assessing the application. Once the decision is made and the decision report written, this is released to all the parties. There are also appeal rights, which we will discuss further in a future blog.
Want more information?
A resource consent hearing can be a stressful and costly process, and you are well advised to seek professional assistance. You need to make sure your submission clearly identifies what your concerns are and where necessary you have specialists to support your views. If you have any questions, please contact our team.
Hannah Thomson is a Director of Planning Plus and has over 17 years of resource management experience working in both local government and the private sector. Hannah has a wide range of experience including commercial, rural, residential and coastal development and subdivision on small to large scales and appearances at both Council and Environment Court as an expert witness for mediation and hearings. Hannah has assisted Councils with policy development and has also assisted private individuals with submissions to Council.
As with all our blogs, the information detailed here is general in nature and meant as a preliminary guide only. This should not be substituted for your own investigations or use of your own professional’s.