covering Commissions of Inquiry is the
Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. Inquiries are held prior
to the Minister making a decision and attempts are made to ensure
that all interested parties have the opportunity to express their
views before a decision is made. Inquiries are held in public by
one or two commissioners who report their findings and recommendations
to the relevant Minister. The findings and recommendations are made
public and the Minister may accept, reject or modify them.
Commissioners may seek further information from parties to the
inquiry and from other sources. Unlike the Land and Environment
Court, which determines issues of law, the Commissioners of Inquiry
consider all the merits of a case. Those people giving their views
do not need to be represented by lawyers or barristers although
they may be. The Commissioners are supposed to treat everyone
who appears before them equally, whether or not they are legally
someone wants to take part in an inquiry they generally first
lodge a submission in response to a public notice of the inquiry
which appears in the newspaper. They are usually held in council
chambers in the area of the proposed project or in the Office
of the Commissioners of Inquiry for a project like the Tunnel.
They are conducted during the daytime between 9 am and 4 pm.
are informal and evidence is not taken under oath. The Commissioners
generally require all information and views to be put in writing
so that proceedings do not have to be recorded or transcribed.
Copies of all these written submissions are available for public
to the hearing, everybody taking part lodges a handwritten or
typed submission and written copies of any questions that they
wish to ask other people taking part in the inquiry. At the beginning
of the inquiry the Commissioners sort out when each person will
make their submission. In the first part of the hearing people
either talk from or read their submissions. They may either sit
or stand whilst doing this. No one is supposed to interrupt a
person presenting their submission. Generally the proponent of
the proposal goes first. Everyone is supposed to present all their
information in their first submission.
everyone has had a chance to make their primary submissions and
have answered questions from the Commissioners and others in writing
then they may lodge a second submission which is called the submission
in reply. This enables people to respond to what other people
have said and to new information that has become known during
the hearing. The applicant makes the final submission in reply.
to an inquiry may be for or against a proposal or seek changes
to the proposal. They may address all issues relevant to the proposal
or confine themselves just to one or two issues. People can ask
that their submission remain confidential but the Commissioners
will need good reasons for allowing this.
the submissions and the submission in reply people may ask questions
of others in writing and these questions and their answers (also
in writing) are circulated.
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of Inquiry for Environment and Planning: How They Work, Office
of the Commissioners of Inquiry for Environment and Planning,