Updating the consent programme/direct referral process
In a direct referral process, the consent programme is primarily managed by the Environment Court. The next key milestones include:
14 December 2021: submitters (anyone who’s submitted a resource consent application about the RiverLink project) decide whether they want to take part in the direct referral process.
21 December 2021: a judicial conference (setting down the ground rules) is held by the Environment Court to agree on the programme for considering RiverLink applications in the New Year. This will include identifying when mediation may occur, when evidence must be submitted by the applicants and submitters, and when hearings (where submissions are presented by submitters who’ve said they want to be ‘heard’) start.
More information about the consent programme will be available in the New Year. In the meantime here are some FAQs about the consent programme/direct referral process:
Why did RiverLink apply to refer the applications to the
Because RiverLink is a critical infrastructure project for Lower Hutt, the project team applied to the Regulators (Greater Wellington and Hutt City Council) to have the designation and resource consent applications referred to the Environment Court. This is called a ‘Direct Referral Process’. This process gives the RiverLink team more opportunity to address issues raised by submitters and retains the ability of submitters to be heard.
What is a direct referral process?
RiverLink made a request to Greater Wellington and Hutt City Council to have the resource consents and notices of requirement decided by the Environment Court, rather than the councils – this is called direct referral. This process streamlines decision-making for large scale, complex applications like RiverLink.
Who’s the decision maker for a direct referral process?
The RiverLink applications will now be decided by an Environment Court judge – potentially supported by Environment Court commissioners.
What role do Greater Wellington and Hutt City Council (HCC) play now if they’re not making the decision?
As regulators, Greater Wellington and HCC are required to prepare and provide reports to the Environment Court. These reports provide the Council officer’s assessment of the effects of the RiverLink project, a summary of submissions and any recommended changes to proposed conditions.
These reports are available on the Greater Wellington website here.
Who can participate in a direct referral process?
Only the applicant and any people or organisations who made
submissions to RiverLink in the submissions period, or whose late submissions have been accepted by either Greater Wellington or Hutt City Council, or by the Environment Court. Acceptance of late submissions depends, in part, on whether the RiverLink applicants would be prejudiced by acceptance of the late submissions. Submitters need to advise the Court within the required timeframe about whether they want to become part of the process. For RiverLink this timeframe expires on 14 December 2021.
Further information is available about the direct referral process and how submitters can participate in this guidance on the MfE website here.