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Appeals Committee established ahead of District Plan decisions being released.

29 December 2015

A District Plan Appeals committee has been set up to provide guidance and direction over any appeals we may have to our new District Plan, when it's released in April 2016.

Once a Decisions Version of our new District Plan is released, along with the Plan submissions, submitters have 30 working days to lodge appeals with the Environment Court on any topic in the Plan on which they have submitted.

The current District Plan was notified in 1997 and became fully operative in 2010 after a lengthy series of appeals (51 went to the Environment Court)

Unlike District Courts, the Environment Court is not purely adversarial and it utilises alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation and expert conferencing. Usually this means only a few appeals are likely to continue to the Environment Court, and the scope's often limited to where the parties have been unable to reach agreement.

Once all the appeals are lodged, they will all be presented to Council along with information about each appeal's complexity, degree of difference from Council's Plan decisions, and whether resolution is likely prior to Environment Court hearings.

The job of the newly-appointed District Plan Appeals Committee will then be to guide and advise the appeals process, whether in negotiation, private mediation or Court-assisted mediation.

Our council has appointed three people to the Committee:

  • Deputy Mayor Peter French
  • Mercury Bay Councillor Tony Fox
  •  Independent Auckland-based planning consultant Ian Munro.

Our District Plan team will case-manage the appeals with assistance from our in-house lawyers. These staff will coordinate negotiations, mediations, correspondence and meetings with appellants and the Environment Court. External lawyers may be brought in to represent Council in Environment Court hearings and for larger more complex mediation topics such as mining and landscape.

Meanwhile Council has also delegated the Group Manager Governance, Planning and Strategy with the authority to sign Environment Court consent orders on behalf of the Council as respondent.


 

How have other Councils dealt with District Plan appeals?

Waikato Regional Council (WRC) - Conducted private mediation sessions based on topics, gathering all appellants together. It organised a mediator and meeting locations, and retained control through its appeals sub-committee. The results of each mediation meeting could be checked by the sub-committee before final sign-off.
Hauraki District Council (HDC) - Used external lawyers for the three topics that went to Court-assisted mediation. The other eleven appeals were resolved by twoof the three hearings sub-committee (their former District Plan Committee) members and planning staff meeting with the appellants and resolving it informally.
Hamilton City Council (HCC).- Is in the middle of appeal mediation, and will have Court hearings in 2016. HCC planners brought all appeal points to the Council with a green/yellow/red category system. Green appeals were for minor changes or changes that are consistent with Council direction that staff can easily resolve. Yellow appeals were for topics that involved negotiation and/or mediation, but did not need Council oversight. Red appeals needed Council direction. HCC established a sub-committee of councillors to help direct negotiations for the red appeals.
Western Bay of Plenty District Council (WBOPDC) - Went straight to Environment Court-assisted mediation. It was managed by in-house planning staff with external lawyers hired for legal input where the topic needed it. The Council's Policy Committee was used to guide and offer direction on mediation and was also able to provide continuity as this Committee had also reviewed their district plan.
Waipa District Council (WDC) - Gave delegated sign-off authority to three Council planning managers. The Regulatory Committee Chair who had been involved with their District Plan process was their Council liaison for direction and guidance. Once, staff took a difficult appeal topic to Council for its direction. To scope out the appeals, planning staff had their first meeting with appellants without their lawyers. Many appeals were resolved outright. Others were narrowed in scope for further negotiation, and later on, Court-assisted mediation for the remaining unresolved appeals.


To find out more about our District Plan review click here