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What's new with existing use rights?


Existing use rights are a defence against most enforcement under the RMA. How do you determine whether there are existing use rights and exactly what they cover?

Existing use rights are a defence against most enforcement under the RMA. How do you determine whether there are existing use rights and exactly what they cover?

The presentation will provide an easily digestible explanation of existing use rights and interesting examples of how the principles are applied in practice:

  • What are existing use rights?

  • Why are existing use rights protected?

  • The difference between existing use rights for different classes of activities.

  • How do existing use rights change or become extinguished ?

  • What do existing use rights certificates prove (and what don't they prove)?

  • Was an activity lawfully established?

  • How do you tell if the effects of an activity are the same or similar in character, intensity, and scale? What if the environment affected by the activity has become more sensitive?

  • Who has to prove or disprove existing use rights when they are disputed?

Brandon shared a presentation about existing use rights at the 2015 compliance conference in Auckland. Some questions that were unanswered at the time have been answered in recent Court decisions, including the High Court's decision in Zhang v Auckland Council (in which Brandon acted for Auckland Council) and the Environment Court's decision in Waitaki District Council v W H McAughtrie Farm Ltd.


Wednesday 7th December, 12:00pm


Brandon Watts
Associate, Meredith Connell


Brandon has specialised in environmental and planning law since 2004. At Meredith Connell Brandon has held the role of a crown prosecutor since 2014. Brandon has appeared in various Court many times in relation to abatement notice appeals, enforcement orders, prosecutions, pre-trial hearings regarding the admissibility of evidence, sentencing, declarations, judicial reviews and a range of appeals. Brandon has worked closely along side councils in a number of major investigations.


David Collins
Senior Associate, Regulatory Group


David is a Senior Associate in the Regulatory Group. He specialises in regulatory enforcement litigation and has acted in numerous prosecutions, civil enforcement proceedings, appeals and judicial reviews. He has expertise assisting local authorities and government agencies to develop solutions to complex and contentious regulatory and policy problems.

David appears regularly in relation to enforcement proceedings in the District Court, Environment Court, High Court and Court of Appeal. His experience also includes representing clients in Council hearings, negotiations, and mediations. David regularly delivers training to investigative and legal staff, and provides guidance on the development of regulatory enforcement policies.

Prior to joining MC, David was the Principal Solicitor specialising in Enforcement at Auckland Council Legal Services (Ngā Ratonga Ture). In that role he led a team of enforcement solicitors and was responsible for managing a large portfolio of enforcement litigation in Tāmaki Makaurau. 


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