The Environment Court can be asked to make a declaration if matters under the RMA are unclear.
A declaration can be sought for a range of reasons including to determine:
- The existence or extent of any function, power, right or duty under the Act;
- Whether or not a provision of a regional policy statement, regional plan or district plan gives effect to provisions in a national policy statement, or national planning standards or is likely to be inconsistent with a water conservation order;
- Whether or not there is any inconsistency between the provision of a particular policy statement or plan and the provisions of other policy statements, plans or water conservation orders;
- Whether an act or omission contravenes the Act, a rule in a plan, a requirement for a designation or heritage order, or a resource consent;
- Whether an activity is a permitted, controlled discretionary, non-complying or prohibited activity; and
- Any other matter relating to the interpretation, administration and enforcement of the Act except whether a resource consent application should be publicly notified.
A declaration cannot be sought as to whether a decision made by a consent authority to notify or not to notify an application for a resource consent was unauthorized or otherwise invalid.
A declaration must specify an act, omission, function, power, right, or duty under the Resource Management Act. The Court cannot make an open-ended declaration which might affect the rights of others who were not parties to the proceedings.
The Environment Court's jurisdiction under section 310 is quite specific. The Court lacks jurisdiction to determine the lawfulness of a proposed activity by reference to the general law or special statutory provisions that must be determined in the ordinary courts. Its jurisdiction does not extend to making declarations (or enforcement orders) relating to defects of an administrative law nature, such as claims of inadequate consultation, bias, legitimate expectation, breach of fiduciary duty and other such matters. The High Court has jurisdiction in relation to such matters. 1068
Section 310 Resource Management Act 1991
Coalition of Residents Associations Inc v Wellington City Council (NZEnvC W90/2001, 13 December 2001)
Berryman v Waitakere City Council (NZEnvC A046/98)
Last updated at 11:04AM on January 8, 2018