Environment Court Practice Note Update

The Environment Court has recently released an update to its practice note for consultation. We have detailed some of the changes to the practice note below.

The new practice note includes directions for managing large numbers of parties who may wish to be heard on a direct referral application. The Court notes that where large numbers the parties are registered the Court may take steps to encourage these parties to act conjointly in the interest of efficiency and cost savings.

In preparing evidence, the new practice note directs that parties are expected to co-operate so that the proceedings are dealt with in a focused way. The Court has given some detailed directions concerning statement of evidence, emphasising that a witnesses statement of evidence is to be provided prior to the hearing. The Court notes that it will almost always pre-read statements of evidence, and at the hearing will usually take evidence as read and proceed straight to questioning witnesses.

The Court sets out directions for the lodgement and use of electronic versions of documents. It has trialled the use of iPads for electronic versions of statement of evidence and exhibits, which may be expected to become standard practice over time. The practice note prescribes the format the Court expects electronic documents to be filed in.

The Court expands on its previous practice note to give more detail as to the protocol for expert witness conferencing. In particular it lays out the requirements of expert witness conferencing including a pre-circulated agenda; experts who are prepared; adequate time to reaching agreement; relevant documents to be available; face-to-face call conferencing rather than phone conferencing; that the final statement should be documented and signed on the day; and the final statement should not be a restatement of the persistent evidence. Expert conferencing will now require an independent facilitator rather than a facilitator being optional, unless there are only two witnesses with a given field of expertise. The Court's preference is that facilitator is a Environment Commissioner.

The Draft Practice Note 2014 can be seen here. Submissions on the new Draft Practice Note must be made by Friday 27 June.

Posted on Friday 20th June, 2014 at 10:37 am