Councils should identify a key contact person to liaise with the Court. This could be an administrative role but the administration officer will likely need input from specialist planning and/or legal staff with knowledge of the direct referral provisions in the RMA, the application and the relevant plans. Alternatively, the council officer responsible for the report or the council’s legal counsel could undertake this role. The key is to have one lead contact person the Court can deal with who has sound knowledge of the process.
Once the Court has been advised of the direct referral application, the Court Registrar and/or a Court case manager will liaise with the council and the applicant about information requirements and the process. For further information refer to the Environment Court Practice Notice 2014. The Court will likely ask the council for a list of submitters, their contact details, their position on the application (support, opposition or neutral), and whether they wish to be heard. The Court has prepared an example excel spreadsheet (XLS, 17KB) for councils to use for providing these submitter details. This information will help the Court to gauge the size of the hearing and enables the submitters’ information to be transferred directly to the Courts database for future correspondence.
Section 87G(3) requires the council to provide the Court with a range of information following the lodgement of the notice of motion with the Court, including submitters’ information.
Also, before the notice of motion is lodged and the case formally proceeds before the Court, the Environment Court Registrar and/or case manager may request a meeting with the council representatives (reporting officer, legal counsel etc.) and possibly the applicant. The intent of this meeting is to discuss the council’s progress with the report, the process up until the notice of motion is lodged, and the logistical and administrative steps involved.