“Impossible time frames;” why flyover hearing needed three extra months

Wellington.Scoop
Correspondence released today by the Basin Flyover Board of Inquiry shows how Environment Minister Amy Adams was persuaded to add three months to the length of the controversial hearing.

These are some of the arguments that were advanced, on behalf of the Board, in a letter from its counsel to the reluctant Minister.

The matters before the Board involve one notice of requirement and five resource consent applications for a significant roading project. The notice of requirement in particular, and these matters cumulatively, are highly complex and require significant consideration and deliberation. Indeed, the complexity of the issues before the Board has proved to be far greater than originally anticipated by the Board or parties;

the volume of material to be considered by the Board is substantial, and growing on an almost daily basis…. as at the date of this application, the transcript of the hearing exceeds 2300 pages …

the combination of the proposal’s physical location, its role as an important transport node and its integration with the Wellington Northern Corridor RoNS means it raises a unique combination of complex and significant issues, at a local, regional and national scale. All of these issues must be carefully heard, considered and balanced by the Board in making its determination …

given the project’s proximity to both a well-established urban area and the historic Basin Reserve cricket ground, many of the submissions raise a range of substantive and deeply felt issues, rather than being a simple “pro-forma” opposition to the project. The majority of submitters (130 out of the 215, or 60.5%) have indicated they wish to be heard in support of their submission. As at the date of this application, the Board is still hearing expert evidence from the parties, so is yet to begin hearing representations from individual submitters who are not calling expert evidence …

the main submitters in opposition to the project are community groups with funding and resource constraints. This means that rather than calling expert evidence in all areas (including, for example, transportation and consideration of alternatives, which …has emerged as a significant contested issue), these parties must largely rely on detailed cross-examination of NZTA’s witnesses (in particular) to establish their case. This in turn has required the Board to allow parties more latitude in cross-examination than may otherwise have been the case. This has already resulted in NZTA’s alternatives assessment expert (Dr. Stewart) being under cross-examination for five days, which to the Board’s and our knowledge is unprecedented in a hearing of this type …

The current timetable requires the Board to produce its draft report and decision on or before 17 April 2014. On current estimates, it will not be possible for the Board to have even completed hearing all the evidence, legal submissions and submitter representations by this date, let alone have had any time for substantive deliberation, consideration and writing of the report and (if required) the wording of conditions. In addition, this timeframe would actually be 14 April 2014, as the Board needs to give the EPA at least 3 working days to print and serve its draft decision and report …

Given the special circumstances … the Board would be under impossibly
tight time frames to deliver a decision should the extension of time not be granted. The Board further considers it would not be able to provide a full and fair hearing to all parties, or meet its natural justice obligations, if required to deliver a draft decision and report by 17 April, as is currently the case.

The letter is dated March 5. The Minister agreed to the three-month extension on 14 March and announced it on Monday, with an expression of “disappointment.”

 

2 comments:

  1. Dr. Jim Baltaxe, 18. March 2014, 21:49

    So the minister, Amy Adams, is disappointed that the independent authority needs more time to be truly independent and do a proper job of assessing the wave of opposition to her (or her colleagues and masters) ill thought out and wasteful hobby horse. She should actually have to courage to listen to what is being said and learn what is truly in the public interest, instead of that of her mates and their vested interests.

     
  2. A. Omundsen, 19. March 2014, 9:08

    Thank you for making the well-reasoned arguments by the Board of Inquiry public knowledge. I am glad to see that the quality of the decision making is being put ahead of the requirement of making a fast decision, even if this is being done reluctantly. Sounds like timeframes have been unrealistic all along and the time expansion was always going to be needed.

     

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