Environment Court workload levels out

The New Zealand Law Society this week reported that a 12-page Report of the Registrar of the Environment Court for the year to 30 June 2017 has been tabled in Parliament.

The total number of appeals and applications filed in the Environment Court have stabilised over recent years to a level the Court can manage efficiently, notes Environment Court Registrar Harry Johnson.

The report indicates that the special directions to enable service of appeals arising out of the Auckland Unitary Plan process via electronic lodgement on to the Court’s web pages, has been effective. The Court anticipates that no more than a handful of cases will need hearing time, and plans are being made for that work to proceed promptly as cases are identified.

The report notes that a total of 485 matters were filed in the reporting year, with 453 disposed, with a clearance rate of 93%.

The volume of resource consent appeals is linked to the volume of notified applications processed by local authorities, and plan appeal numbers fluctuate as planning instruments undergo change.

At 30 June 2017, there were 207 plan appeals outstanding and 80 resource consent appeals outstanding.

Cases filed and disposed in Environment Court, year to 30 June
Year Plans Appeals Resource
Misc Total Filed Total Disposed
2008 404 558 187 1149 1051
2015 153 113 2 124 392 415
2016 203 103 2 120 428 422
2017 101 112 4 268 485 453

The report highlights that section 268 of the Resource Management Act 1991 empowers the Environment Court to arrange mediation and other forms of alternate dispute resolution. It says the Court actively encourages this “and consequently the majority of cases will undergo mediation”.

Court-annexed mediation volumes and outcomes, year to 30 June
Outcomes 2017 2016 2015
Total mediation events 244 232 164
Agreement reached in full 103 69 63
Agreement reached in part 65 84 49
Agreement not reached 48 53 42
Mediation vacated 21 26 10