Mediation in the Environment Court: Do the Numbers Matter?
When thinking about the number of participants in Environment Court mediation, the old saying “too many cooks spoil the broth” comes to mind.
But is there any truth to this preconception? Analysis of group interaction theories, as well as those related to mediation, and plan change documentation for numbers involved and time taken to resolve a dispute, may hold the answer.
Why do the numbers matter?
Local authority resource management plan and policy documents are required to be reviewed every 10 years under s 79 of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA). In practice this involves “rolling reviews” with plan change or variation processes addressing discrete plan issues arising during the 10-year “life” of the plan.
As part of the RMA Schedule 1 process, interested persons may be consulted by the council at the document pre-notification stage and can continue their involvement through the notification, submissions and hearings parts of the process. In practice, councils facilitate plan development discussions and forums for the community at many junctures of the process, including pre-notification, through the submissions on notified provisions process, the publication of submissions and then the further submissions process, and the hearing of submissions themselves.
As a result, there is a continuous cycle of resource management document redevelopment, review and change, with the processes involving significant public input at different stages and across different authorities. Often the time between policy conception and completion can be measured in years. Clearly, this is an incredibly time-consuming and resource-intensive process in its own right.
Author: Jemma Hollis, 4th year LLB Hons student, University of Waikato.