In assessing applications for resource consent the Council often delegates authority to determine applications to independent hearings commissioners. This approach – as opposed to having the commissioners hear the decision but only having authority to make a recommendation to Council – means the commissioners have the authority to decline consent applications made even by the Council itself.
In Auckland Council v Auckland Council this very outcome occurred, when the Council applied for consent for works associated with the protection of an esplanade reserve. The commissioners declined consent, which led to the rare and somewhat awkward situation of the Council appealing effectively its own decision to the Environment Court.
The Court has questioned whether it is within their jurisdiction to hear such an appeal, or whether it is an abuse of process under the Resource Management Act 1991. Ultimately they have decided that a full bench of the Court be appointed to hear and decide this question of law, and taken the unusual step of appointing an amicus curae (“friend of the court”) to assist the Court on these issues.
If you ever find yourself needing to make application for a resource consent or wishing to oppose one please feel free to contact us. We have one of the most experienced Environmental Law legal teams in the South Island.