After the hearing
After an Environment Court hearing the Court will issue a decision. You can bring an appeal against an Environment Court decision. You may have to pay costs following an Environment Court decision.
Because of the complexity of the subject matter of most proceedings, oral decisions are seldom given, and decisions are usually reserved - meaning that a written judgment is delivered at a later date.
The Court’s decisions are forwarded to all parties at the same time – by mailed hard copy, by email, or both. Copies are not released to the media until, usually, three working days after release to the parties. This allows the parties to read and consider the decision before it becomes public knowledge. Once the Court forwards the decision to the parties it can no longer control distribution of it and, if any party releases a copy to the media or discloses the result within that period, the Court will release it also.
The Court aspires to issuing its decisions within 3 months of the making or lodging of the final submissions from the parties. There may be times when that cannot be achieved, for instance because of the pressure of other matters having to be heard and decided.
Appeals from the Environment Court can be made (on a point of a law only) to the High Court.
The Environment Court may order any party before it to pay any other party the costs and expenses (or a portion of the costs and expenses) incurred by that party.
Unlike civil courts, such as the High Court, costs don’t follow the event as a matter of course, meaning that a successful party is not automatically awarded costs. Costs are not awarded to penalise an unsuccessful party, rather they are just awarded in the interests of ‘compensation where that is just’.
The Environment Court can also order a party to pay the Crown for the Court’s costs. This provision is seldom used, except in relation to direct referral proceedings.
The Court will usually reserve costs, or set a timetable for applications for costs to be made.
If no timetable for dealing with costs is set, the default position, which applies whether or not costs are expressly reserved, is that:
- any party claiming costs should lodge with the Court, and serve on all other parties, a claim supported by particulars, within 10 working days of the date of issue of the decision and
- any party from whom costs are sought should lodge a reply and serve it on all other parties, within a further 10 working days and
- the applicant for costs may respond within a further 5 working days to any relevant matter raised for the first time in the reply, and serve all other parties and
- an application should include invoices or other proof of costs incurred.
If an application for costs is made, all affected parties will be able to file submissions in reply to the application.
Costs incurred need to be well-documented, as parties will often be asked to produce invoices to prove their claim for costs. Invoices should have narrations that show that costs were incurred relating to the proceedings, rather than just general services that a lawyer or witness may perform for a client. Where a party is having costs claimed against them, they should not hesitate to seek appropriate confirmation that the costs were actually incurred in respect of the proceedings.
Costs incurred in the hearing before a Council, or in Court-assisted mediation, are not awarded by the Court and cannot be claimed.
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