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Mediation during Environment Court appeals

5 April 2010

AUTHOR:Kevin Birch

In previous articles I have commented on the Resource Management Act notification process and the RMA appeal process. Some of these articles may be contained on this website.

Parties to Resource Management applications (subdivisions or landuses) and District Plan changes can lodge appeals with the Environment Court where they do not accept the decision of the Local Council. These provisions are contained in the Resource Management Act. There are many reasons why a party may appeal a decision, but it is generally considered a fundamental right, to have a right of review or appeal to a higher authority.

It is usually in everyone’s best interest that the parties to an appeal, attempt to resolve their differences through a mediation process. This can save time and costs for everyone, and the Court will appoint an independent mediator if one is required. Mediation provides a less formal setting in which parties can express their views, attempt to find areas that they agree on, and seek to resolve areas where they disagree. Parties are not subject to legal cross-examination and points raised are considered to be without prejudice where matters can not be resolved.

Mediation is not without it’s pitfalls, and requires a willingness of all parties to seek solutions, to act fairly and reasonably, and to be open and honest. Although mediation should speed up the process of resolution, the process can be frustrated by parties not acting according to agreed timeframes.