COVID-19 and the Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal

The Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal (Tribunal) has taken steps to ensure that it complies with the Public Health advice in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. The measures, as outlined below, will apply until further notice is given by the Tribunal.

Proceedings at the Tribunal are to occur via distance

Since late March 2020, directions hearings, mentions, mediations and other alternative dispute resolution meetings have generally occurred via telephone conference. Similarly, hearings are being held by way of video conference between the parties and the Tribunal.

These measures have increased the Tribunal’s use of technology which can sometimes cause delays, however the Tribunal has been endeavoring to meet timelines even when technological issues occur.

Preparation for hearings

Participants attending a hearing via video conference require either a laptop or desktop computer with a webcam, microphone and stable internet connection.  Participants do not require Skype for Business although it is the Tribunal’s preferred software for video conferencing. In the future the Tribunal may start using Zoom software, instead of Skype for Business, for hearings.

Witnesses and lawyers who are required to attend a hearing, when directed to do so by the Tribunal, must provide the Tribunal with an email address that the witness or lawyer can access in the video conference and a phone number that they will be able to be contacted on.

Participants should have all the relevant materials at hand during the hearing. This includes the materials of each party and the relevant planning scheme and/or legislation. However, if during the hearing someone does not have the relevant material at hand, it can be emailed to them by the Tribunal.

More information about the technical requirements for attending Tribunal proceedings via distance is available here.

Natural justice

In some cases, proceedings of the Tribunal occurring via video conference could cause a denial of natural justice for one or multiple parties. Technical issues can occur, such as connections being lost resulting in witnesses’ evidence not being heard by the Tribunal or the parties. The Tribunal must deal with these issues as they arise.

All parties will be given an opportunity to be heard with respect to natural justice and other relevant considerations before any directions as to the manner in which a hearing should proceed are given by the Tribunal.

Other arrangements can be made when connection issues occur. For example, the Tribunal can organise for telephone connections to occur alongside a video conference so that everyone can hear the evidence, even if there are continuing video conference issues.

Public attendance at Tribunal hearings

Members of the public can still attend public Tribunal proceedings, however they will need to contact the Tribunal beforehand to organise their attendance.

If a member of the public is not able to attend a public hearing via distance, then at no cost, the Tribunal will provide a copy of the recording of the public hearing to that person who wishes to listen to the proceedings before the Tribunal.  The recording will be subject to directions restricting its use and publication to other persons.

Personal attendance at the Tribunal premises is to be limited

Telephone and email communication are preferred. If personal attendance is required, the Tribunal Registry must be given notice.

The delivery of hard copy materials can still occur through secure document boxes outside the Tribunal reception, however hard copies of proofs are not required as they can be delivered to the Tribunal and other parties electronically.

If you have any queries or would like further information about this article, please contact:

Anthony Spence SC
Principal
M: 0400 545 503
E: aspence@pageseager.com.au

Published: 3 June 2020

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