The Environment Court has received 25 appeals on the proposed Southland Water and Land Plan, with the official period for lodging appeals closing last week (17 May).
Director of policy, planning and regulatory services Vin Smith said the majority of those appeals had come from industry or organisations such as Federated Farmers, Alliance and Forest and Bird. Seven appeals have come from individuals.
“There is still an opportunity for the Court to accept late appeals,” Vin said. “Once these have been decided there is a chance for people to ‘join’ an appeal (called a section 274 party). It’s likely that this step won’t be complete until after 8 June.”
The Environment Court registrar manages this process. Mediation is generally the Court’s preference to resolving appeals. The Environment Court will appoint an environment commissioner to run the mediation. This process is confidential until such time as any agreements are reached and accepted by the Environment Court judge. At that time the proposed plan will be amended and adopted by Council. The proposed plan will then be operative and previous plans, like the Regional Water Plan, will be superseded.
If mediation is unsuccessful, or a party wishes to bypass mediation and go to a hearing, then the appeal will be heard by the Environment Court.
Vin said getting to this point in the process is a significant milestone and he wanted to thank everyone that had been involved either in the initial engagement, by attending a meeting, or by submitting and presenting to the hearing panel.
“Mediation or hearings in the Environment Court could take some time, so final decisions following these processes aren’t expected this year,” Vin said.