All offences under the RMA are prosecutable. Regional councils have the discretion to determine whether the offence receives a warning, infringement/abatement notice or prosecution. Prosecutions under the RMA are heard at the District Court. If the case is technically complex there may be expert witnesses involved either for the council or the defendant or both. An expert witness’s duty is to assist Judge on technical matters no matter who has engaged or paid the expert witness. Offenders can be convicted and fined or jailed or required to do community work.
The Judge will use all information available to him/her and the Sentencing Act to determine the fines or other punishments (e.g. community service). A prosecution fine could be up to $300,000 for a person and up to $600,000 for a non-person (e.g. a company). Ninety percent of the fine is awarded to the councils and 10% is retained by the Crown. All prosecution fines are collected and processed by the Courts. Maximum jail term under the RMA is 2 years.
If any party is not satisfied with the District Court decision, an appeal can be lodged at the High Court on a point of law. If the appeal is successful there may be District Court rehearing the case. If a party is not satisfied with the High Court decision and the decision is likely to have a significant impact on a point of law being interpreted in the future, the party can apply for a leave for Court of Appeal from the High Court Judge who decided on the case. If the leave is granted by the High Court Judge, the case may be heard by the Court of Appeal.