Arbitration involves the parties choosing an independent person to make a decision on their behalf. This method is seldom used for resource management matters. Because parties have to be equally motivated to get a decision before the matter reaches court, few arbitrations have been carried out.

Using alternative dispute resolution during the RMA process

There are on-going opportunities to use alternative dispute resolution methods throughout the resource consent and plan development process. These methods run alongside the statutory RMA procedures - refer to diagram showing relationship between alternative dispute resolution methods and statutory RMA procedures below.

What type of ADR method to use will depend upon:

  • The stage of the conflict
  • The participants' knowledge of resource management matters, and the quality of advice they are receiving
    • The number of parties
    • The cultural background of the parties
    • The willingness of the parties to work together, rather than have the decision made for them.

Experienced planning practitioners within or outside Council can often identify which plans and resource consent applications the Council is likely to approve. In these cases, facilitated consultation at an early stage can help submitters and Council staff to understand the proposal. It may also help parties to find some common ground and clarify outstanding issues.

Later in the process, council staff may need to decide:

  • How to handle contentious legal issues. Will independent legal opinions put the matter to rest, or is it better to go for a statutory declaration from the Environment Court to avoid a full Court case?
  • How to handle contentious evidence. Will an independent expert provide more assurance about likely adverse environmental effects and their mitigation?
  • How to handle matters of public interest. Should some matters be non-negotiable?