Court decision victory for public participation
19 April 2005
Supreme Court decision victory for public participation
The Supreme Court today released a decision on public notification under the Resource Management Act that reinforces the need for Environment Court appeal rights.
The Supreme Court has held, in a unanimous decision, that a resource consent allowing the operation of a discount outlet shopping centre by Discount Brands Ltd in Akoranga Drive, Northcote is invalid because Discount Brands’ application for the consent was not publicly notified.
“This case is a symptom of a wider problem. Central Government and local authorities are bending over backwards to accommodate business-led opposition to the Resource Management Act. As a result the law is being abused,” said Conservation Manager Kevin Hackwell.
“This decision shows why Environment Court appeal rights on public notification are needed. Currently people can only go to the High Court, and then the Supreme Court to ensure that their rights are upheld. This is very expensive,” he said.
“This case was between trade competitors. They are the only ones who can afford the legal costs involved,” he said.
“A low-cost appeal right on notification would soon sort out those councils that deny people their legitimate, lawful right to have their say on developments that will affect them and their environment,” he said.
Development proposals are only lawfully allowed to progress without public notification in very narrow circumstances. This process is called non-notification. Generally, the proposal must have less than minor effects on the environment or all those persons who may be potentially affected have given their consent.
Over 95% of resource consents are processed non-notified. Controversial development proposals including the construction of large towers in residential areas, major wetland draining and native forest logging have all been processed without public notification.
There is no Environment Court appeal right on notification. Instead people have to seek a High Court judicial review of the process the council used.
There is currently a proposal in the Resource Management and Electricity Legislation Amendment Bill to introduce Environment Court rights to seek declarations as to whether or not a resource consent application should have been notified (a form of notification appeal).