Council report on submissions
When the council has received all the submissions, council officers prepare a report that includes:
- A summary and analysis of the submissions and further submissions (if any)
- Recommendations on which parts of the proposal/application to adopt, remove or modify.
They send the report to the consent applicant and everyone who made submissions.
Notification about a hearing
If you and other submitters stated that you would like to speak at a hearing, the council will hold one. They will tell you the date and time of the hearing at least 10 working days beforehand.
Before the hearing: providing evidence
Evidence is anything that backs up your statement at the hearing. It can be spoken, written or visual – you can use photographs and drawings as evidence. Evidence should focus on facts, not emotions, and be directly relevant to your submission.
You may decide to engage an expert, for example in planning, ecology or water, to prepare evidence for you.
If you intend to call expert evidence, the council may require you to provide this at least 5 working days before the hearing. In these situations, the council will usually make this evidence available for other parties to read.
Providing evidence before the hearing is useful, especially if the proposal is a complex resource consent, or if the experts disagree.
The table shows the deadlines for sending out evidence before a hearing.
|Deadline before hearing
|Applicant Any Submitters
15 working days
Applicant’s evidence (resource consent)
10 working days
Submitters’ expert evidence
5 working days
The hearing panel
A hearing panel is made up of councillors and/or independent commissioners. Their role is to listen to submitters’ arguments for and against a proposal. They may make final decision on a proposal (if the council has given them that authority).
If you have concerns about who will hear a proposal, discuss this with council staff. The council may decide to change the panel members or a commissioner if there is a strong reason that this should happen.
For consents, the applicant or submitters can ask the council to appoint an independent commissioner – or a panel of independent commissioners – to hear and decide on the application. If a submitter requests this, they must meet the costs, but if the applicant makes the same request, they meet the costs.
What you’ll do at the hearing
When it’s your turn to present to the hearing panel, you’ll most likely have the chance to read out a written statement, and to present evidence that supports your submission. The panel might ask you about your submission, your statement, or your evidence.
After everyone has had a chance to speak, the panel makes its decision. This is usually done in private and released sometime after the hearing.
Making a statement
It will be useful to prepare a statement to read at the hearing. The hearing panel will have already read your submission. This is your opportunity to expand on the points in your submission, or to explain the evidence you’ve provided. It’s a way to ‘warm up’ before the panel asks you questions. If you want, someone else can read out your statement for you.
You need to consider how to present any evidence you have gathered and pre-circulated.
Your statement might include examples of the points in your submission, or you could comment on the recommendations in the council officer’s report or on points raised in other submissions.
You can also just read straight from your submission if you wish. If so, the hearing panel may tell you they take your submission as read, and ask you directly about the matters you’ve raised.
Any information you provide during the hearing will also be on the public record. Hearings may be recorded or audio-visual technology used, in which the council will make it clear to the persons appearing at the hearings.
Who else will be at the hearing?
A council officer is usually at the hearing to present the council’s report. Other council officers, such as urban designers or traffic engineers, might be there to give technical advice.
There may be another person to help the panel with administration of the hearing (usually a council officer).
Sometimes the council or hearing panel might have appointed a person to help submitters through the process – known as a ‘friend of the submitter’. This person is neutral in terms of the proposal itself, and is not there to influence or support the content of your submission. However, they are there to help you participate in the process and understand what is going on.
For a resource consent the applicant will attend. They may have an advocate or a lawyer, and other experts.
Other submitters will probably attend. They may have an advocate, a lawyer or an expert witness.
A hearing is usually open to all, so there may be other members of the public and media representatives. Unless people have made a submission and have asked to be heard, they will not be invited to speak.
When you’ve received the council notice about the hearing, start preparing and practising your statement, and gathering your evidence. Nothing beats preparation for getting your point across on the day.
- Prepare your written statement to read out at the hearing. Decide on the key points you want the panel to hear and include them in your statement. Providing examples of what you are talking about, or photos of the area of concern is often useful to the panel. They may ask for copies of your written statement.
- Practise your presentation, or reading your statement. You want to get it right and to look confident and comfortable.
- Think about what questions the panel might ask you, and how you can answer them.
- You can present in te reo Māori, but should give reasonable notice beforehand if you wish to do so.
At least 15 working days before the hearing, you’ll get a copy of the council officer’s report about the proposal. This may discuss your submission points. It will make a recommendation on whether these points should be accepted, accepted in part, or rejected. Read the report before the hearing. See if there is anything you want to talk about in your statement, and change your statement if necessary.
How to do well on the day
You want to make a strong presentation. You want the hearing panel to fully understand and focus on your statement and your evidence. Keep your statement simple and be yourself.
You can expect the panel to treat you with dignity and respect and to put you at ease. You should treat them with respect also.
Make it clear and easy to hear
Read your statement or talk to your submission clearly and slowly enough to be understood. Speak clearly and try not to repeat yourself.
Stick to the point
Everyone is here for the same reason, and needs their views to be heard. The panel is only interested in the relevant facts and opinions.
- Stick to the facts in your statement.
- Focus on the environmental matters, not simply what you like and dislike.
- Expand on your submission, but don’t introduce any new issues.
- Don’t repeat yourself or be long-winded.
- Keep calm and polite. This will keep you in the right frame of mind for any questions from the panel.
Presenting your evidence
If you are presenting evidence, make it as clear and as simple as possible. Give the panel a copy of your data or reports, but focus on the conclusions you have reached or the matters you want them to be aware of.
The hearing panel can take reports or evidence as read (allowing more time for submitters and witnesses to expand on, or clarify, the points raised, and answer any questions the panel might have).
Expert witnesses will generally detail their qualifications or background.
The hearing is neutral
Councillors on a hearing panel aren’t there as politicians. They are decision-makers who have to weigh up both sides of an argument, and they have been trained in decision-making.
- Don’t use the hearing as a chance to discuss or argue about other issues. Focus on the issue at hand.
Using an advocate or a lawyer
- You may engage an advocate (a spokesperson) if you’re nervous about speaking to the panel, or if you are part of a group that has made a submission and want one person to speak for all of you. The advocate could be a member of your group.
- You may use a lawyer as your advocate if your submission explores legal matters, or if you need a professional interpretation o legislation or case law. However, you will need to cover any legal fees you might incur.
Using expert witnesses
In a hearing for a resource consent application, the applicant might use expert witnesses to support their case. It might make sense for you to use expert witnesses as well. Remember:
- Stick with what you know. Only expert witnesses can offer opinions on matters that relate to their field of expertise. If you are not an expert witness, don’t pretend to be one or the material you present may be struck out.
- You could use expert witnesses (such as planning consultants, surveyors, engineers or scientists) to present evidence about technical topics (for example, traffic, heritage, soil stability or microbiology).
- Make sure any expert witness you use can present evidence that supports your point of view.
- Expert witnesses are not ‘hired guns’. They must be able to support their own conclusions. They can only give their expert opinion based on the facts. If possible, it is best to avoid using people you have a personal relationship with as expert witnesses, to help the panel be confident that their evidence is independent.
- Check the costs, and whether you can share these with other submitters. You can get a list of the other submitters from the council.
Speaking with other submitters
If the hearing involves many submitters and covers a lot of topics (for example, a whole plan review), you may make your submission along with other submitters speaking about the same topic.
Rights and rules
You have certain rights when you appear at a council hearing, and you have to follow some rules as well.
Can I bring support people?
Yes. Your friends, whānau/family and support people can come to a public hearing to support you, and they can speak on your behalf. But remember, it’s the quality of the argument that counts – not strength in numbers.
Will the hearing recognise tikanga and te reo Māori?
Councils must allow for submissions and evidence to be given in te reo Māori. You should give reasonable notice if you intend to do so (for example, by noting this in your written submission), so the council can arrange for an interpreter if needed.
Also ask in your written submission about dealing with Māori protocol or other cultural issues – councils must recognise tikanga Māori where appropriate.
Councils will try to accommodate most reasonable requests.
Can I ask questions?
If you don’t understand what’s going on at the hearing, you can ask questions, but only about procedure. You should address these questions to the chairperson of the hearing panel. Only panel members can ask questions about submissions or evidence.
You are usually not allowed to ask any questions of the council officer, the submitters, the witnesses, or an advocate or lawyer (other than in the limited types of hearings where cross-examination may be allowed – see below). You can suggest questions for the panel, but the panel doesn’t have to ask them. Raise any questions you would like them to ask with the chairperson, when you are speaking about your submission.
What if I disagree with what someone else says?
You can only speak directly to the panel when you are presenting your submission or answering a question. You must never interrupt someone speaking, even if you disagree with what they are saying.
What will it cost me?
You have to pay your own costs, such as travel to and from the hearing (if the hearing is held at a physical location), time off work (noting some hearing sessions can be held outside of regular business hours), and any professional fees. You don’t have to pay for anything else.
If you asked for an independent commissioner (rather than councillors) to decide on a resource consent, you may have to pay for this if the applicant has not made the same request. The council can give you an estimate of these charges, which will be shared equally among any other submitters who made the same request. You must pay the charges regardless of the decision on the proposal itself.