The Appeal Court has today put to rest the on-going argument of the validity of prosecutions taken under the Resource Management Act.
Wellington Appeal Court judges Arnold, Harrison and Steven have ruled that regional councils have followed correct practice in initiating prosecutions and that the hundreds of RMA convictions entered over the last ten years were lawful.
The court described the case as raising issues “of considerable public importance”.
A number of appellants had challenged the right of regional councils to prosecute without first obtaining the permission of a district court judge or registrar. They believed that this leave has been required since February 2001 as a result of an amendment to the RMA at that time.
They further argued that subsequent convictions and penalties imposed were not valid as a result of the council’s failure to get this leave.
The court found that the council was not required to get permission of the district court or registrar to prosecute.
“This decision effectively affirms the validity of hundreds of prosecutions brought under the RMA by regional councils around the country over the last ten years,” said Waikato Regional Council’s complaints and investigation manager Patrick Lynch.
“Though this can be seen as a technical point of law, the ruling is extremely important. It has the effect of reinforcing all of the deterrence against environmental offending that the court has imposed in the last ten years.
“This appeal process has been quite disruptive to regional councils trying to meet their obligations to enforce the RMA. This decision sends a clear message to councils that the path is clear to prosecute for environmental offending where appropriate,” said Mr Lynch.