Making Decisions

  • Broader issues should be addressed first, prior to making decisions on specific points. 

  • Allow for some iteration in decision-making for complex and contested issues: a hearing does not have to be a one-time only. Other possible methods for resolving issues include the issuing of interim/draft decisions, or preparing further reports to council after the hearing. Both of these should allow opportunity for all interested submitters to comment by reconvening the hearing. 

  • It is usually preferable to release decisions at one time, rather than stage them over time, as the provisions of a plan are usually not readily separated from each other. While a single decision release date may cause frustration if the decisions are released a long time after the original hearings of submissions (for example, a problem with a rule cannot be amended until the decision to correct it is released), the approach allows all decisions to be reviewed and amended for consistency. Partly, how decisions are released will depend on the structure of the plan, and whether its constituent parts are severable. 

  • If the sections of a plan are independent from each other, a sequenced series of decisions may be appropriate. However, this approach may still cause difficulties if there are common provisions (for example, hazardous substances rules) that require changing as a result of a later decision on one section of the plan. 

  • Providing clear decisions is critical to reduce misunderstanding and possible appeals. In particular, accepting or rejecting decisions in part needs careful explanation, with the reasons set out logically to clarify what is being accepted or rejected and why. 

  • It is good practice to create 'changes-highlighted' versions of proposed plans as the decision-making process proceeds, and, in particular, in conjunction with the release of decisions. This technique can help in ensuring decisions are consistent, as well as helping submitters understand the effect of the decisions. It also helps those trying to apply the district plan on a day-to-day basis. While it can add to the costs, it is relatively simple to issue sections of the plans with changes highlighted to relevant groups of submitters. 

  • Clauses 9-13 of Part 1 of Schedule 1 direct the process of making and releasing decisions on plans, whilst Clauses 14-16 outline the process for making and hearing appeals to the Environment Court.