If to Environment Court

Stop The Stadium President Bev Butler has confirmed the organisation has lodged a letter of appeal to the Environment Court seeking to prevent the Harbour Arterial Link project – this joins the proposed harbourside arterial with State Highway 88 by skirting the site for the Awatea St stadium.

Loss of the Harbour Arterial Link would place the proposed stadium project in jeopardy. http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/42373/environment-court-stadium-appeal

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What is the role of the Environment Court?

Ministry for Environment web pages cleanly state (http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/rma/everyday/court-guide/html/page2.html):

“The Environment Court is a specialist court operating under the Resource Management Act (RMA). The Environment Court has the same powers as the District Court and considers appeals on council decisions about:

* resource consents
* abatement notices
* proposed district and regional plans
* proposed regional policy statements.”

Among other things, the Environment Court can consider appeals on designations.

“The Environment Court has the power to:

* direct councils to make changes to their policy statements or plans
* confirm, amend or cancel decisions on applications for resource consents and designations
* stay or confirm abatement notices
* make or decline to make declarations and make or refuse to make enforcement orders
* award costs in favour of one or other of the parties involved.”

The Environment Court holds sittings as required throughout the country. These are usually held as close as possible to the site that the proceeding is concerned with.

Always google “Environment Court” or “RMA” to pick up useful explanatory guides, definitions and descriptions of planning processes, court processes, procedural matters and participation. Most of these are phrased for easy comprehension by lay people and practitioners, and general query solving. Plenty of cross links are given for consistency and elaboration.

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Last year, Ms Butler expressed concerns when she discovered the Dunedin City Council had pushed for early Environment Court slots for expected appeals blocking the Awatea St stadium proposal. She considered this application to the Court to be highly unusual. Via media reporting – and, as underlined to Ms Butler by the Commissioners at the stadium plan change hearings – this was shown to be standard practice. Forward scheduling allows the Court to allocate personnel and resources to see to upcoming business. Appeal hearings have been sought for April or May 2009.

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Case Management

One of the objectives of case management by the Environment Court is to “efficiently use available judicial, legal, and administrative resources, and achieve the purpose of the Resource Management Act (where that is the relevant controlling legislation)”.

Cases such as statutory plan appeals, appeals concerning a major development proposal (and matters referred to the Court by the Minister for the Environment under s141B(l)(b)) which require individual management are “assigned to a complex track, and are managed through mechanisms such as timetabling of procedural steps and progress reporting to the Court, judicial conferencing, and formal pre-hearing directions or rulings”.

To find out more about the Court’s case management system, go to:
http://www.courts.govt.nz/environment/procedure/case-management.asp
http://www.courts.govt.nz/environment/legislation-and-resources/practice-notes.asp?inline=case-management.asp

Designations

Unsure of the term ‘designation’ as it applies to local authority planning processes? What does it mean?

Areas of land can be designated for use by requiring authorities as network utilities or public works, for example, roads. This means that works can be carried out without the subsequent need to comply with district plan rules. The process for designating land is similar to a resource consent application and provides for public submissions.

“[A designation] gives providers of network utilities and public facilities certainty and the ability to plan ahead. It gives them control over activities on the site to prevent anything that may compromise future works, even if the site remains in private ownership.”

In effect, the designation “creates a special zone within the district plan where the specified activity becomes a permitted activity”.

To note: “Tensions can develop between the community’s desire to achieve a good environmental outcome, and the necessity to provide public utilities such as a road or a wastewater treatment plant, within a designated area.”

Use the following links to view the full context of these excerpts:
http://www.rmalink.org.nz/view-subprocess.php?id=4
http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/rma/everyday/designations/index.html
http://www.mfe.govt.nz/rma/public/designations/index.html

Sections 166-186 of the Resource Management Act (RMA) deal with designations. These are searchable online.

Notified Decision

The Council notifies the decision of the requiring authority (Dunedin City Council, in this case) to all submitters and affected landowners/occupiers.

Planning hearing commissioners Roger Tasker, John Lumsden and John Matthews confirmed a notice of requirement for the new Harbour Arterial Link, subject to a list of conditions, on 9 January 2009.

STS, as a submitter, didn’t like the notified decision and has appealed to the Environment Court by the due date set down in the decision (2 February 2009).

ODT reports (go to link at top of page), “Among Stop the Stadium’s reasons for appealing to annul the Dunedin City Council’s “notice of requirement” – the process by which a designated authority gives notice it is seeking to designate land – were that the planned new infrastructure duplicated existing infrastructure; it was contrary to various objectives and policies of the Dunedin district plan and Otago’s regional policy statements and objectives because it failed to recognise available transportation alternatives and to reduce the use of fossil fuels and production of harmful emissions; and it made more appropriate technology less likely in the future. The new route would isolate the harbour area from the rest of Dunedin and make access to the harbour area more problematic…Ms Butler noted the commissioners had conceded a shorter arterial route through fewer private properties than would be needed to go around the proposed Otago Stadium site would be preferable.”

If you hold concerns similar to these about an RMA decision, initially you might consult the following guidelines, Resolving Resource Management Act Concerns and Your Guide to the Environment Court:
http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/rma/everyday/concerns/index.html
http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/rma/everyday/court-guide/index.html

Better, directly consult a lawyer for advice and to know your options, and or an experienced RMA practitioner.

The Resource Management Act

The Ministry for Environment provides a gateway to information about the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA), New Zealand’s main piece of legislation that sets out how we should manage our environment. http://www.mfe.govt.nz/rma/

The approach to environmental management under the RMA is centred on the concepts of sustainable and integrated management of resources. Other principles of national and lesser importance are set out in the Act.

The Environmental Defence Society (EDS) also provides a community guide to the RMA: http://www.rmaguide.org.nz/rma/introduction.cfm

In 2005, the RMA was amended – and shortly, it will be again.

The Resource Management Amendment Act 2005 changed Environment Court procedure. “Rather than the ‘de novo’ hearing, the Court must now consider the decision made by the consent authority, and the evidence that was presented at it. This provision avoids the need to re-hear entire cases, and will speed up Court proceedings. However, there has been a corresponding increase in the documentation that consent authorities are required to make for consent hearings.” http://www.rmalink.org.nz/view-subprocess.php?id=3

Quality Planning is another RMA resource, providing valuable information on a range of planning topics (including conduct at hearings), as well as best practice guidance and relevant case law. http://www.qualityplanning.org.nz/

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Pending the Dunedin City Council’s decision on the stadium project tomorrow, will StS continue with its appeal? It’s understood Chalmers Properties Ltd (CPL) has also appealed the decision for the notice of requirement.

More soon.

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

Postscript, from ODT Online

Comment submitted by andy73 on Sat, 07/02/2009 – 11:31am.
http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/42373/environment-court-stadium-appeal#comment-2338
“Although I don’t particularly think that the ‘Stop the Stadium’ group is the best to represent the vast majority of Dunedin’s residents that are against the stadium, I am pleased that they are at least doing something about it. Dunedinite’s apathy is the reason we have ended up with such an out of touch council in the first place. I would hope that Stop the Stadium is also looking at legal ways of having this council removed from office due to a ‘vote of no confidence’ from the people. I really believe that the problem has got that bad!”

2 Comments

Filed under Design, Economics, Geography, Media, Name, Politics, Site, Stadiums, STS, Town planning

2 responses to “If to Environment Court

  1. Wow, thanks Elizabeth, this is certainly what this site has missed, some decent meat on my bones (excuse the pun).

    Looking forward to responses both here and by the powers that be.

  2. (still editing this post here and there)

    Suspect any responses, since really the post’s just a preliminary list of guides to search, may be few and far between – or until future posts examine what exactly StS’s appealing and what the next formal steps are following sending their ‘letter of appeal’ (Form 22) to the Registrar of the Environment Court.

    Unless, other posters have better ways to abbreviate matters/processes – in language of the street – for easy discussion. Well, hey, there’s a few planners and legal beagles following your blog.

    Anything can happen!

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