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Court decides in council favour on RMA

MEDIA RELEASE
Court decides in council favour on RMA

For immediate release: 17 November 2009

In a landmark decision issued today, District Court Judge Jeff Smith found that convictions can be recorded against parties found guilty of breaches under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA).

In the first case of its type relating to the RMA to be heard by the District Court, Judge Smith stated the decision of whether to issue an infringement notice or prosecute summarily lay with regional councils or other relevant local authorities.

The decision about jurisdiction was raised in a case before the Environment Court in which Environment Bay of Plenty is prosecuting one of New Zealand’s largest forestry management consultancies, PF Olsen Limited. The prosecution is the result of PF Olsen allegedly breaching its resource consent relating to forestry operations in the Waiotahe Forest, near Opotiki.

If the judge had found in favour of the defendant (PF Olsen Limited), the decision could have had serious ramifications for convictions recorded against parties under the RMA during the past nine years.

Judge Smith’s decision is likely to be reviewed in other cases currently before the High Court where a similar issue has been raised.

Environment Bay of Plenty Chief Executive Bill Bayfield said the regional council was pleased with the judge’s decision.

“The regional council takes environmental damage seriously and it is only fair that people found guilty of serious offences have convictions recorded against them. We believe that recording a conviction for a serious offence acts as a significant deterrent to any future breaches by a party,” Mr Bayfield said.

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PF Olsen Limited is facing charges under the RMA arising from the collapse of piles of forestry debris in Waiotahe Forest in April 2008.

The case was adjourned in September to allow Judge Smith to deal with the jurisdiction issue, but with this now resolved, Judge Smith has directed a teleconference with the parties on 1 December to address the next steps in the case.

Judge Smith’s decision.

Judge Smith’s decision - Bay_of_Plenty_Regional_Council_V_P_F_Olsen_Limited_(pdf)

ENDS

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