Past Events

RMLA Webinar : Council hearings in a virtual world

This webinar was moderated by RMLA President Mary Hill.  The session covered the requirements and challenges relating to conducting council hearings remotely.  Building on MFE guidance, which encourages councils to consider ways for consent hearings to be undertaken during the Covid-19 lockdown while fulfilling their statutory obligations, Hawkes Bay Barrister Martin Williams explored the legal issues associated with the requirement to hold hearings “in public”, natural justice and access to justice issues.  Seasoned hearing commissioners Dr Phil Mitchell (Director, Mitchell Daysh) and Paul Cooney (former Partner at Cooney Lees Morgan, Tauranga) shared their experiences of conducting the Waikato District Plan hearings remotely under the Covid-19 lockdown. Rounding out the panel was Sue Bulfield-Johnston, an experienced Hearings Facilitator at Marlborough District Council.

Issues included: How will those who live remotely have a fair opportunity to submit?  How might a virtual approach address tikanga considerations?

Powerpoint presentations can be found here:

Martin Williams’ presentation

Dr Phil Mitchell and Paul Cooney’s presentation

Sue Bulfield-Johnston’s presentation

Meet the Panel:

Mary Hill has been RMLA President since October 2019.  She is a Partner at Tauranga law firm Cooney Lees Morgan, where she heads up the local government and resource management practice. Mary represents local authorities at all stages of the consenting and plan change process and regularly provides guidance to hearings panels in relation to procedural issues.

Martin Williams is an accredited Hearing Commissioner and accredited Mediator (Resolution Institute),  and has chaired or been appointed as a Commissioner to a number of hearings and prehearing meetings for various local authorities, as well as advised local authorities regarding notified resource consent hearing processes and procedures generally, particularly in Hawke’s Bay.  Martin has represented numerous clients in Council hearings (plan preparation/review and resource consent) throughout New Zealand over the course of his 25 year career, and is thoroughly familiar with the procedures and best practice requirements involved.  Martin was elected as a Hawke’s Bay Regional Councillor in October 2019, and appointed Chair of the Regional Council Hearings Committee in November 2019.  Martin is a former President of the Resource Management Law Association of New Zealand (Inc), serving on the National Committee of that Association for nine years.

Dr Phil Mitchell has practiced as a resource management planner for the past 35 years and is a co-founder of the national planning consultancy Mitchell Daysh. Phil is a founding executive committee member and past President of the RMLA, a recipient of the Planning Institute’s Distinguished Service award and, amongst many other things, is currently chairing the hearings on the proposed Waikato District Plan.

Paul Cooney has practiced as a resource management and local government lawyer in Tauranga for over 35 years and has been involved in a number of leading resource management cases. Paul is the recent recipient of a RLMA regional award recognising his significant contribution to resource management law. Paul is now specialising as an accredited planning and development contributions commissioner and has received appointments to hear a variety of consent and plan change applications. He is currently deputy chair for the hearings on the proposed Waikato District Plan.

Sue Bulfield-Johnston is an Administrator and Hearings Facilitator.  This role is part of the Advocacy and Integration Team at Marlborough District Council.  Sue has been with the MDC for almost 20 and has spent the last 17 years in various roles in the Regulatory Department.  Part of her role is to set and administer hearings on applications for resource consent.  The function involves working with both Independent Commissioners and the Resource Hearing Sub-Committee delegated to hear and determine applications for consent. Management of the hearing process includes ensuring all parties are able to fairly and equitably participate in the hearing.  This is important for the lesser experienced participants, now more so than ever.