The process for the Unitary Plan aims to deliver better plans that lead to good planning outcomes, including more timely plans. It is based on the standard Resource Management Act process for reviewing and changing plans, but with a number of changes made by the Local Government (Auckland Transitional Provisions) Act 2010.
The main differences at the hearings stage are the introduction of an Independent Hearings Panel (rather than Council appointed commissioners) and the use of pre-hearing meetings, expert conferences and mediation to try and resolve issues before the hearing. The overall goals are to achieve better solutions and for less time to be required for formal hearings.
Because the process is new, the Panel has prepared some detailed procedural directions that set out how the various processes will run. These directions cover:
- Pre-hearing meetings;
- Expert conferences;
- Mediation; and
- Hearing sessions.
These are explained in the Hearing Procedures document which you can find under supporting documents on the right hand side of this web page.
For an overview of the seven key steps in the hearing process, go to our home page. Each step takes you to more information about that part of the process. The process is also summarised in the factsheets which you can find on the right hand side of this web page.
Frequently asked questions
What is the Panel?
The Auckland Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel (the Panel) is a statutory body appointed by the Minister for the Environment and Minister of Conservation. It is set up under the Local Government (Auckland Transitional Provisions) Act 2010.
The Panel is independent of the Auckland Council (the Council) and set up in a separate office to the Council with staff funded by council but responsible to the Panel on a day-to-day basis.
What does it do?
The Panel’s job is to hear submissions and evidence on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (the Plan) and make recommendations to the Council about any changes the Panel thinks should be made to the Plan.
The Panel has also set up a process to encourage parties to resolve issues before and during the hearings process. This is through pre-hearing meetings, expert conferences and mediation.
The Panel has the power to make recommendations about changes to the Plan that were not raised by submitters.
What is Auckland Council’s role?
The Council is responsible for preparing and notifying the proposed Unitary Plan and for running the submission process. The Council provides the Panel with the submissions, the summary of submissions and the further submissions on the Plan.
Once the submissions have been provided to the Panel, the Council steps back and lets the Panel get on with the job of hearing the submissions and deciding what changes to the proposed plan it will recommend to Council. The Council then considers the changes recommended by the Panel and decides to accept or reject the changes.
The Council will take part in pre-hearing and hearing processes and put forward its position as a submitter, but also as the “owner” of the Plan.
The Council is responsible for providing the Panel with the resources it needs to do its work properly. This includes paying for the costs of the Panel and the hearing process and providing staff to support the Panel.
The Panel is being paid for by Auckland Council – how can we be sure it is independent?
Independence has been built into the statutory framework, the Panel’s terms of reference and the procedures developed for running the hearings.
The Panel chair is an Environment Court Judge and he and panel members have been selected by the Minister for the Environment and Minister of Conservation in consultation with Council for their qualifications, experience and competence.
The hearing process is a transparent process and open to public scrutiny. All hearings and pre-hearing meetings will be open to the public and media as observers but expert conferences and mediations will be limited to the parties only.
Reports on the outcome of pre-hearing meetings, mediation and expert conferences will be made available on the IHP website. All hearing sessions will be voice recorded. Recordings of hearing sessions in MP4 format can be requested from the panel office.
What is different about the Unitary Plan hearing process?
The process for the Unitary Plan is a new process under the Resource Management Act to deliver better plans that lead to good planning outcomes.
The main differences at the hearings stage are the introduction of an Independent Hearings Panel (rather than council-appointed commissioners) and the use of pre-hearing meetings, expert conferences and mediation to try and resolve issues before the hearing. The overall goals are to achieve better solutions and for less time to be required for formal hearings.
The Panel will make recommendations to the Council about any proposed changes to the Plan after it has considered the submissions. The Council will then make decisions on whether to accept or reject the Panel’s recommendations. There are limited opportunities for submitters to appeal.
When will the hearings start and how long will they take?
The hearing process began in September 2014. A list of hearing topics and their likely timing is available on the hearings page under ‘hearing schedule documents’ along with a detailed schedule of pre-hearing and hearing events at least six months in advance. These dates may change and you should check the website often.
The hearings will likely continue until around the end of April 2016. The Panel then has to prepare its recommendations and provide them to the Council by 22 July 2016 for the Council to consider and notify its decisions on those recommendations within 20 working days i.e. 19 August 2016.
Why does it take so long?
The hearing process has to allow enough time for the Panel to hear all of those submitters who wish to be heard and to consider all the matters raised before making recommendations on the Plan. The Unitary Plan brings together the regional policy statement and previous regional and district plans, so the hearings cover a wide range of topics that impact on all Aucklanders.
How can I be involved in the hearings process?
You will only be contacted about pre-hearing meetings and hearing sessions if you have said on your submission that you wish to be heard, or if you have contacted the panel office to let us know that you wish to be heard.
If you are a submitter but do not wish to be heard, your submission will still be considered by the Panel when making their recommendations on the Plan.
Hearing sessions and pre-hearing meetings are open to the public and the media as observers. Only submitters or their representative and their witnesses are allowed to speak.
What happens if the Panel can’t finish the hearings and deliver its report within the time the law allows?
The Panel or the Council may seek permission from the Minister for the Environment to extend the deadline for the Panel to make its recommendations by up to a year from the original deadline of 22 July 2016.
The Panel has set out a programme to complete the hearings in the time available and will manage the hearing process with this in mind. Adjournments and extensions of time are unlikely to be granted.
How were the hearing topics and their order decided?
The hearing topics are based on the coding framework used by the Council to summarise the submissions. This also reflects the structure of the Unitary Plan itself and the Panel considers this is the best way to ensure the hearings take an integrated and consistent approach across the whole plan.
The order for the rest of the hearing topics is based on moving from the general ‘higher order’ provisions to the more specific provisions. This means that Regional Policy Statement (RPS) matters (excluding the RPS schedules) will be heard first, followed by objectives and policies, before dealing with the regional and district rules, site specific issues, schedules and designations.
How many hearings will I need to come to?
You will only be invited to attend hearings and pre-hearing steps if you have asked to be heard.
If your submission is about multiple topics in the plan you will be invited to attend the hearings on all these topics. This could mean that you are invited to multiple pre-hearing events and hearings.
Do the hearings have any relevance for the Hauraki Gulf Islands?
The Gulf Islands District Plan is operative so the Islands are not impacted by the district plan provisions in the PAUP. However the Islands are impacted by the regional policy statement sections of the PAUP and the regional plan provisions. This includes provisions that replace the regional air, land, water and coastal plans, and that provide for protection of such things as outstanding natural landscapes and significant ecological areas.
What are the processes to be used and who can be involved in these?
The Panel has the power to decide how it will run the hearings, including any processes before the hearing.
The use of pre-hearing meetings, expert conferences and mediation is one of the new features of the Unitary Plan process.
The aim of these pre-hearing processes is to clarify or work through issues in a more collaborative and less formal way than is possible in a hearing. This is expected to result in better solutions and to reduce the amount of time required in formal hearings.
Depending on the matter or issue to be clarified or resolved, the process can include any or all of these approaches:
- Pre-hearing meetings;
- Expert conferencing;
- Direct negotiation not involving the Panel.
The results of these processes will be reported to the hearing.
The people involved may include submitters, the Council and any others the Panel thinks should be involved, including expert witnesses.
The pre-hearing meetings will be chaired or facilitated by a member of the Panel or someone appointed by the Panel chair.
Pre-hearing meetings will be open to the public unless the Panel chair directs otherwise for a particular reason. Members of the public can attend as observers. Only submitters and their witnesses will be allowed to speak.
Expert conferences and mediations will not be open to the public. However there will be a written report on all such meetings that will be made available on the hearings page.
To find out more about these processes, please read the hearing procedures and fact sheets on the our process page.
Where are the hearings held?
Most of the hearings, pre-hearing meetings, expert conferences and mediations will be held in the Independent Hearing Panel hearing rooms on level 16, 205 Queen Street, in the CBD.
The hearing rooms at 205 Queen Street have limited capacity. Hearing sessions and related processes that have a large number of submitters may be held in other locations. Please check the hearings page for details.
If the number of people at the hearing exceeds the maximum allowed for building safety, priority will be given to the people who need to be there for that part of the hearing to proceed.
Why are all the hearings in the CBD? Won’t this disadvantage people who live further away or who can’t afford parking?
A central location was chosen because most hearing topics are not specific to one location so will involve parties from all over Auckland. As the Queen Street premises are readily accessible by all forms of public transport this was seen as a good option for providing access to people across the Auckland region.
Are all the hearing sessions and other processes open to the public, and if not why not?
Pre-hearings and the hearing sessions are open to the public, but expert conferences and mediation are not. This is because material at those meetings may need to be disclosed on a confidential “without prejudice” basis. The outcome of all such meetings (but not information provided in confidence) will be recorded and reported to the hearing, and will be available on the hearings page of the hearings page.
Members of the public can attend pre-hearing meetings and hearings as observers. Only submitters or their representative and witnesses are allowed to speak.
What happens when the hearings have finished?
Once all the hearings have finished, the Panel will provide a recommendation report(s) to the Council that will include any recommended changes to the Plan.
The Council will then consider the Panel’s recommendations and make decisions on whether to accept or reject them. The Unitary Plan will then be changed and issued as the operative Auckland Unitary Plan and will take full effect, subject to any appeals.
What can submitters appeal?
Where the Council accepts the Panel’s recommendations, appeals can only be made on a point of law. These appeals are made to the High Court.
Where the Council rejects the Panel’s recommendations, appeals on substance can be made to the Environment Court.
Appeals can also be made to the Environment Court where the Panel has recommended changes to the Plan that were not raised in submissions.
How do I find out when the hearings are happening?
A schedule of hearings will be available on the hearings page of the website. Please check this regularly as hearing dates and times may change at short notice. You can also phone the panel office on 09 979 5566.
How will I know when to come to the hearing?
The panel office will contact you at least ten working days before the relevant hearing to let you know when the hearing will take place. Your notice of hearing will tell you how to arrange a time to attend the hearing.
Communication about the hearing will be by email or by post if you do not have an email address or have asked to be contacted by post.
Access to documents relating to the hearing will be provided by electronic link. If you are unable to access documents on the website the office will arrange for copies of documents to be sent to you.
If you expect to be attending a particular hearing, but have not received an email or letter from the panel office a week before the hearing is due to start, please phone the office on 09 979 5566.
What is being done to make the hearing process more accessible?
Fact sheets on each step of the process are available on the our process page of the website. These fact sheets have been translated into te reo Māori and some other languages.
Submissions can be presented in any of New Zealand’s official languages (English, te reo Māori or sign language). If submitters wish to present written or oral material in te reo Māori or sign language, they will be asked to let the hearing administrator know in advance so that interpreters or translation can be arranged.
Documents provided before or during the hearings will be available on the hearings page.
Documents provided by the Panel (records of pre-hearing meetings and the Parties and Issues reports) will be compatible, where practicable, with screen reader software for use by the sight-impaired.
The hearings will not be transcribed. Individual hearing sessions will be voice recorded and a copy of the audio record can be provided on request. Note that pre-hearing meetings will not be voice recorded but all written reports on pre-hearing processes will be made available on the hearings page.
- Revised Hearing Procedures (PDF 1.5MB)
- Microsoft Word version of the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan
Examples of well prepared evidence and legal submissions
Independent Expert Reports
Independent Legal Advice
- Section 75 HASHA Legal Advice (PDF 358KB)
- Interim Recommendations Legal Advice (PDF 1.0MB)
- Framework Plans legal opinion (PDF 858KB)
- Procedural Minute 1 (PDF 468KB)
- Procedural Minute 2 (PDF 185KB)
- Procedural Minute 3 (PDF 1.2MB)
- Procedural Minute 4 (PDF 178KB)
- Procedural Minute 5 (PDF 746KB)
- Procedural Minute 6
- Procedural Minute 6 - Addendum (PDF 152KB)
- Procedural Minute 7 (PDF 177KB)
- Procedural Minute 8 (PDF 265KB)
- Procedural Minute 9 (PDF 246KB)
- Procedural Minute 10 (PDF 974KB)
- Procedural Minute 11 (PDF 618KB)
- Procedural Minute 12 (PDF 374KB)
- Procedural Minute 13 (PDF 227KB)
- Procedural Minute 14 (PDF 213KB)
- Procedural Minute 14 – Council's response (PDF 67KB)
- Procedural Minute 14 - Tramlease response (PDF 6.6MB)
- Procedural Minute 14 - Auckland Uni and Karaka North Ltd. response (PDF 228KB)
- Environment Court Scheduling - 1 December 2014 (PDF 110KB)
- Memo to Panel re 004 including procedural matters (PDF 463KB)
- Memorandum to the Hearing Panel 5 September 2014 (PDF 67KB)
- Joint memorandum seeking directions in relation to evidence - 1 Sept 2014 (PDF 85KB)
- Joined up memo 16 September 2014 (PDF 137KB)
- Joined up memo correction 26 September 2014 (PDF 46KB)
- Memo and email to Hearing Panel 5 November 2014 (PDF 510KB)
- Memo to Council re Topic 026 4 December 2014 (PDF 172KB)
- Memo to Hearing Panel re Topic 026 19 December 2014 (PDF 151KB)
- Memo to Hearing Panel re Topic 026 19 December 2014 - Attachment 1 (PDF 4.3MB)
- Memo to Hearing Panel re Topic 026 19 December 2014 - Attachment 2 (PDF 189KB)
- Memo to Hearing Panel re Topic 026 19 December 2014 - Attachment 3 (PDF 7.4MB)
- Memo to Hearing Panel re Topic 026 19 December 2014 - Attachment 4 (PDF 919KB)
- Memo to Hearing Panel re Topic 026 19 December 2014 - Attachment 5 (PDF 149KB)
- Memo to Hearing Panel re Topic 033 and 034 5 December 2014 (PDF 777KB)
- Ruling on scope of submission 5566 (PDF 475KB)
- Joint memorandum Topic 031 - change in dates request (PDF 34KB)
- Joint memorandum Topic 031 - change in dates request - memo from HNZ supporting request (PDF 164KB)
- Joint memorandum Topic 031 - change in dates request - response (PDF 31KB)
- Memorandum of AUOG requesting amendments to schedule (PDF 60KB)
- Memorandum of Remuera Heritage on Mediation Matters - 13 April 2015 (PDF 52KB)
- Letter to panel from EDS re interim guidance (PDF 411KB)
- Memo from Auckland2040 requesting interim guidance (PDF 139KB)
- Memo from Auckland2040 requesting interim guidance - panel's response (PDF 100KB)
- Memo from Auckland2040 on out of scope zoning changes (PDF 814KB)
- Memorandum from Auckland2040 on out of scope zoning changes - response from Housing NZ (PDF 795KB)
- Waytemore Forests Ltd - memo of counsel seeking directions (PDF 15.6MB)
- Waytemore Forests Ltd - memo of counsel seeking directions - panel's response (PDF 715KB)
- Direction from IHP to Auckland Council - Topics 080 and 081 (PDF 53KB)
- Direction from IHP to Auckland Council - Topics 080 and 081 - Council response (11 Dec 2015) (PDF 1.2MB)
- Email from Clare Burlinson (21 Dec 2015) (PDF 76KB)
- Memorandum of Counsel for and proposed submission by Ross Newman (22 Dec 2015) (PDF 420KB)
- Letter from Mark Thomas - permitting late submissions on out-of-scope issues (18 Dec 2015) (PDF 304KB)
- Memo from Gen Zero to Hearing Panel re: topic 081 (PDF 50KB)
- Letter from Minister for the Environment Hon. Dr Nick Smith re: best practice approach to rezoning (PDF 79KB)
- IHP reply to letter from Minister for Environment Hon. Dr Nick Smith re: best practice approach to rezoning (PDF 562KB)
- Letter to IHP Panel from Franco Belgiorno-Nettis (PDF 1MB)
Procedures - 1 August 2014
- Pre-hearing meeting - Notification letter (PDF 55.1KB)
- Pre-hearing meeting - Memo from Auckland Council (PDF 1.2MB)
- Pre-hearing meeting - Response from Mr Cavanagh (PDF 83.6KB)
- Pre-hearing meeting - Report (PDF 62.5KB)
- Procedural Minute 5 (PDF 746KB)
- Affidavit from John Duguid (PDF 980KB)
Procedural minute 10
- Conference - Notification letter (PDF 57KB)
- Memorandum of Counsel (PDF 466KB)
- Fact Sheet 8 - Communicating with IHP (PDF 275KB)
- Procedural Minute 10 - Leave to apply for additional presentation time (PDF 974KB)
- Memorandum from Jon Maplesden (PDF 545KB)
- Memorandum from Bianca Tree (PDF 97KB)
- Memorandum from Paul Cavanagh QC (PDF 132KB)
- Memorandum from Setareh S Masoud-Ansari (PDF 129KB)
- Memorandum from Auckland Council (PDF 634KB)
- Memorandum from Douglas Allan (PDF 244KB)
- Memorandum from Trevor Daya-Winterbottom (PDF 169KB)
- Memorandum from Russell McVeagh (PDF 95KB)
- Memorandum from Richard Burton (PDF 49KB)
Interim Recommendations - 27 January 2015
- Judicial conference 3 - Notification letter (PDF 64KB)
- Request for a conference - Auckland Council (PDF 87KB)
- Request for Interim Recommendation - Russell McVeagh (PDF 135KB)
- Request for Interim Recommendation - Richard Brabant (PDF 219KB)
- Request for Interim Recommendation - Jon Maplesden memo - 21 January 2015 (PDF 534KB)
- Request for Interim Recommendation - EDS and RFB memo - 21 January 2015 (PDF 299KB)
- Request for Interim Recommendation - Auckland Council - 22 January 2015 (PDF 1.2MB)
- Request for Interim Recommendation - Richard Burton - 22 January 2015 (PDF 37KB)
- Request for Interim Recommendation - Douglas Allan and Claire Kirman - 22 January 2015 (PDF 391KB)
- Request for Interim Recommendation - Ngati Whatua Orakei Whai Maia Limited - 23 January 2015 (PDF 102KB)
- Request for Interim Recommendation - Todd Property - 23 January 2015 (PDF 473KB)
- Request for Interim Recommendation - Transpower NZ - 23 January 2015 (PDF 307KB)
- Request for Interim Recommendation - Ports of Auckland - 23 January 2015 (PDF 82KB)
- Request for Interim Recommendation - Russell McVeagh - 23 January 2015 (PDF 83KB)
- Request for Interim Recommendation - Man O War Farm Ltd - 26 January 2015 (PDF 177KB)
- Request for Interim Recommendation - Bell Gully - 27 January 2015 (PDF 196KB)
- Request for Interim Recommendation - Ministry for the Environment - 26 January 2015 (PDF 908KB)
- Request for Interim Recommendation - Tram Lease Ltd, Viaduct Harbour Holdings and Viaduct Harbour Management - 27 January 2015 (PDF 174KB)
- Request for Interim Recommendation - Richard Brabant - 27 January 2015 (PDF 40KB)
- Interim Recommendation Conference Agenda (PDF 35KB)
- Letter from Hon Dr Nick Smith - 29 January 2015 (PDF 100KB
- Request for Interim Recommendation - Independent legal advice provided to panel (PDF 997KB)
- Judicial Conference on interim recommendations - Minute - 9 February 2015 (PDF 436KB
Re-zonings and Precincts - 24 March 2015
- Meeting on rezonings and precincts - Notification letter (PDF 241KB)
- Meeting on rezonings and precincts - Agenda (PDF 37KB)
- Meeting on rezonings and precincts - Outcome of meeting (PDF 198KB)
- Meeting on rezonings and precincts - Cancellation of continued conference on 3 July 2015 (PDF 49KB)
Framework Plans - 13 April 2015
- Independent legal advice from Dr Somerville (PDF 855KB)
- Notice of conference (PDF 54.5KB)
- Response from Auckland Volcanic Cone Society (PDF 188KB)
- Response from Douglas Allan (PDF 60.2KB)
- Response from Karl Schweder (PDF 773KB)
- Response from City Works Depot Site Limited (PDF 337KB)
- Response from Fletcher Construction, Tamaki Redevelopment Company and Kauri Tamaki Ltd (PDF 802KB)
- Response from Auckland Council - requesting additional time (PDF 42.9KB)
- Response from Ngati Whatua Orakei Whai Rawa Limited (PDF 108KB)
- Response from IHP to Auckland Council on additional time request (PDF 31KB)
- Response from Auckland Council - 9 April 2015 (PDF 421KB)
- Framework plans - Outcome of conference (PDF 176KB)
- Auckland Council Memorandum - 3 June 2016(PDF 191KB)