A hearing is an opportunity for people who have made submissions on a proposal to speak to a panel about their submission, and to present supporting evidence.

There are two RMA processes where hearings can be held.

  • Hearings on submissions on a council’s proposed policy statements, plans, plan changes, or variations.
  • Hearings on a resource consent application or notice of requirement for development proposals.

Council hearings

A council hearing can look a bit like a court, with lawyers, witnesses and a hearing panel listening and asking questions. But it’s not supposed to be too formal. They are designed for you to have your say, and to let other people have theirs. They’re a key way for the community to be involved in council decisions about the environment.

Councils must decide on an appropriate procedure for the hearing that avoids unnecessary formality and addresses specific needs such as recognising tikanga Māori, receiving evidence in Māori, and providing for the use of New Zealand Sign Language. Councils must also consider the physical site for the hearing, its accessibility, and any support required for people with disabilities.

Hearings are usually held in a physical location (often in council chambers), but can also be held virtually over the internet or by phone if these facilities are available. Virtual hearings can have significant time and cost savings for all involved (for example, by removing the cost and time needed to travel to a hearing venue). The council may contact you about this before a hearing is scheduled. You should contact the council if you wish to be heard through audio or audio visual link.

Hearings on proposals of national significance

Some proposals are heard and decided by a board of inquiry or the Environment Court, because the Minister for the Environment considers them to be nationally significant.

Direct referrals to the Environment Court

In some cases an application for resource consent or a notice of requirement can be directly heard by the Environment Court, without a council hearing. This direct referral streamlines decision-making for large‑scale or complex applications that are likely to end up in the Environment Court on appeal after the council hearing and decision. This process aims to save time and costs for applicants and submitters.

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