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Hearing Process FAQs

Hearing Process FAQs

Updated 19 April 2017 10:11am

Also see the Panel Directions

Who is on the Hearing Panel and what is its role?

The Hearing Panel consists of three independent commissioners: Mark St Clair, David McMahon and Elizabeth Burge. The panel’s role is to hear submissions and evidence on the Proposed Natural Resource Plan (the Plan) and decide any changes the panel think should be made to the Plan.

When will the hearings be?

The hearings are scheduled to begin in March 2017.  The first hearing, a one-day meeting in each of three venues around the region, will be a procedural hearing. At this meeting the Hearing Panel will hear from submitters on any process or procedural matters, for example to clarify the hearing timetable and scheduling.

How long will they last?

We anticipate at this stage the hearings will go for at least six months.

Why will the hearings take so long? How will they be structured?

The hearings are going to be split up into topic areas, such as coastal management, water allocation, etc.  We anticipate splitting the hearings up into six topics, though we have not yet finalised which provisions will sit under each topic.  There will be three venues for the hearings; Kāpiti, Wairarapa and Wellington, to minimise travel for submitters. Each hearing topic will be heard at each of the three venues. Each hearing will take a few weeks to complete, depending on how many submitters wish to be heard and how long they speak for. There will be a break period between hearing topics for the Hearing Panel to consider the submissions and evidence they have heard.

Following the procedural meetings, the first topic-based hearing will be on the ‘overarching’ plan provisions (the high-level objectives and policies).  

How will I know which hearing topic(s) to attend and at which venue?

All of the 11,455 submission points have been coded to a plan topic. If you stated in your submission that you wish to be heard at the hearing, you will be invited to the hearing(s) on the topic(s) that your submission relates to.  This may mean you will be required to attend more than one hearing if you submitted on multiple parts of the proposed Plan.  We will invite you to the venue that is closest to you to minimise your travel time and cost.

What do I need to prepare?

If you would like to bring additional information to the hearing in support of your original submission you will need to have this prepared in time for the hearing.

If you would like an expert to give evidence on your behalf they will need to make their evidence available to all submitters 2 weeks before the hearing (which is called pre-circulation of evidence).  They do this by emailing it to our Hearings Officer who will post it on our website.

What makes a person an expert?

An expert will need to provide a brief statement in their written evidence about why they are an expert on a specific topic/subject matter, based on formal qualifications, past experience, knowledge and skills. 

What do I need to do when I get to the hearing?

In your invitation to the hearing you will be given a scheduled time. You don’t have to come for the whole day if you don’t want to or your other commitments don’t allow it. Hearings are open to the public to observe and there will be an area where you can sit and listen for as long as you like. When it is your turn you will be asked to come forward to a table for submitters to sit at and speak to your submission.  The Hearing Panel is likely to ask you questions, to assist them in their decision making. 

If you have any questions or are unsure of anything, our Hearings Officer will be present throughout the hearings to offer support.

Will there be pre-hearing meetings?


The first round of pre-hearing meetings were held in May as ‘Submitter information days’.

The next round of pre-hearing meetings are on specific topic or sub-topic areas of the proposed Plan.  All submitters who submitted on these specific topic areas and stated they wished to be heard will be invited to the pre-hearing meeting(s) relevant to them. 

The pre-hearing meetings are more informal than the hearings, and provide an opportunity for everyone attending to explore issues and ultimately come to a resolution ahead of the hearings.  If all submitters can reach agreement, this can be formally recorded and provided to the Hearing Panel to assist them in their decision making.

Pre-hearing meetings will be held when:

•  they will assist in resolving a matter(s) and / or

• they will assist in providing clarity to submitters on the intended need for a provision(s) and how it works.

They will not be run for all areas of the proposed Plan.  Officers are conscious of ensuring all pre-hearing meetings are a worthwhile use of submitters’ time.

What else will be happening before the hearings?

The Hearing Panel has asked that ‘expert conferencing’ happen before and possibly during the hearing.  What this means is where a number of submitters have engaged experts on the same subject and those experts do not agree on certain things, the panel has asked that these experts meet and try and come to agreement.  Any areas of agreement are recorded and provided to the Hearing Panel – as an appendix to the Council Officer’s s42a report.

What is a Council Officer's s42a report?

This is a report written by a Council Officer (set out in section 42A of the Resource Management Act – which is where the name comes from).  In this report the Council Officer evaluates the issues raised in submissions and makes recommendations to the Hearing Panel.  Each hearing topic will have an associated Officer’s s42A report.  The Officer’s s42A report will be made available on our website four weeks before each hearing. 

The Officer’s s42A report is just one part of the evidence the Hearing Panel considers in making their decision, alongside information provided by submitters and evidence from their experts.  All information and evidence provided carries equal weight and is considered equally by the panel.

What does pre-circulation of evidence mean?

Because there is so much information to be considered by the Hearing Panel on each topic it would take too long for this all to be read during the hearing itself.  The Hearing Panel will read everything in advance of the hearing and use the hearing time predominantly for asking questions.  This will help to speed up the hearing process. 

The Council Officer’s s42A report will be publicly available on our website four weeks before the hearing and evidence from experts two weeks before the hearing.  At the hearing itself submitters who do not have experts can bring along additional information to support their original submission; this does not have to be made available before the hearing.  

Are pre-hearing meetings and hearings compulsory?

No. Pre-hearing meetings are an opportunity to try to resolve your issue ahead of hearings. Hearings are an opportunity to speak directly to the Hearing Panel on the content of your submission should you choose to. If you choose not to attend either of these, your submission will still be considered by the Hearing Panel in its entirety.

What if I said I didn't wish to be heard?

If you stated you did not wish to be heard when you put in your submission, you will not be invited to a pre-hearing meeting or hearing. However, your submission will still be considered in its entirety by the Hearing Panel.