Boards of inquiry

If a matter is referred to a board of inquiry, the Minister for the Environment will appoint an independent board to consider it.

The board runs its own process. It will consider all submissions, hold a hearing (unless no-one wants to be heard), and make a final decision on the matter, independently from the EPA and the Minister.

We provide administrative support services to all boards of inquiry. This ranges from organising the logistics of the hearing, to commissioning specialist advice to assist the board.

Board of inquiry membership

The Minister must ask the relevant local authorities for suggestions for appointments to a board, but ultimately decides who is appointed to a board of inquiry.

The Minister must consider the need for members to have knowledge and skills relating to:

  • the local community
  • the Resource Management Act
  • issues relevant to the matters the board will be considering, and
  • tikanga Māori.

A board of inquiry must have between three and five members, with the chair being a current, former or retired Environment Judge or retired High Court Judge.

Timeframe for making a decision

All decisions by a board of inquiry are required to be made within nine months of the date of public notification of the matter. This means a board must consider an application, hold hearings, consider the matter and make a decision within nine months.

The Minister does have power to extend this timeframe under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) in special circumstances.

Appealing board decisions

Board of inquiry decisions can only be appealed to the High Court on points of law.

This means that there is no general right of appeal against the board's overall decision to approve or decline the matter. It is only where the board's process or decision is legally deficient that it may be appealed.