More than half of the hearing panel have to be accredited hearing commissioners. The hearing panel may comprise local councillors or independent commissioners. Applicant or a submitter can request the application to be decided by an independent panel in which case such request should be made within 5 working days following the closure of the submissions.
Hearing may include a site visit should this be necessary. Hearing may also be held jointly between regional and district councils if consents are applied to both authorities. There may be pre-hearing meeting arranged by the council to resolve any issues between the parties (e.g. between the submitters and the applicant).
Hearing should be a fair process driven by the principles of natural justice. Once hearing is completed decision will be released which is subject to appeal by the applicant or submitters at the Environment Court. If there are no appeals consents will be granted by the council. Otherwise once Environment Court made the decision, council will grant consents. Sometimes there may be appeal (on question of law) at the High Court challenging the Environment Court decision. If the appeal is upheld by the High Court, there may be rehearing by the Environment Court. Equally, the whole or part of the consent process may also be challenged on procedural matters at the High Court.
There is no obligation for councils to grant every consent except for controlled activities.