A timely announcement from the government has proposed further legislative changes to clarify the practicalities of virtual hearings under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) during New Zealand’s response to COVID-19:
- Virtual hearings: Specifically authorises council RMA hearings to be conducted using a ‘remote access facility’ (audio/ audiovisual link or similar) if the council considers it ‘appropriate and fair to do so’ and is satisfied that the necessary remote facilities are available.
- Availability of documents: Documents normally required to be made available for physical inspection (e.g. evidence and section 42A reports) can be instead made available electronically (e.g. on the council’s website) with the option for hard copies to be purchased for a reasonable price.
The Bill should be passed into law quickly and the amendments above will apply retrospectively from 25 March 2020 to allow occasions where they have already occurred. We think this will be a helpful measure in ensuring consistency in approaches to virtual hearings and increase the likelihood that they are used more often.
The Bill is available here.