Following a preliminary conference the parties may request the matter is placed into the conference track. This mean subsequent listings in the Court will be for an hour rather than 10 minutes.
The conference is an opportunity for the ‘parties’ (the person who lodged the appeal, the authority whose decision was appealed against and anyone who has been joined as a party) to get together in a round table discussion to try and resolve the matter.
The following information will guide you through the conference process:
The court will send all parties (and all people entitled to apply to ‘join’ the appeal) a notice giving the time, date and location of the conference.
Conferences are usually held in a conference room on the 5th level, Sir Samuel Way Building, Victoria Square
Where it is more convenient, the conference may be held in a country town - usually in the court house, council chambers or town hall of the town closest to the subject of the dispute. The court decides where and how a conference is held, but if you think a country conference or a telephone link up might be more convenient in your case please contact the court and make a request.
It is important however for the parties to understand that the Court will not make a decision during the conference process. Its purpose is for the parties to reach an agreement. The Court will only make a determination on an appeal at a formal hearing.
You must attend the conference or have someone attend it on your behalf. If you don’t your appeal may be dismissed or ‘struck out’.
It is preferable that you attend in person so that you can fully participate in the discussions.
You may choose to be represented by a lawyer or other professional representative. You may also bring:
other people (eg. a family member or friend) for moral support or to talk on your behalf (where the court permits) and
experts that support your appeal (eg. a builder, architect or town planner).
The authority against whose decision you are appealing (and any other parties) will also send a representative (or perhaps more than one representative). They are also entitled to bring a lawyer and other people (eg. experts)
The conference will be run by either a commissioner or judge. The commissioner’s or judge’s secretary will also attend the conference.
A conference usually takes about one hour. It can be much shorter, particularly if it becomes clear that no agreement is possible.
During the conference process you may wish to consider alternate proposals. These may include possible alterations or amendments to your plans. Any proposals discussed or tabled by you or the council for the purpose of reaching a settlement can not be discussed when proceeding to a hearing.
You can expect that laws that are relevant to your dispute may be discussed at the conference. It is sensible to be prepared. For example, you may want to look at the law (or legislation) that is relevant to your appeal. You also need to look at other material that is relevant to your dispute. For example, you should review the relevant Development Plan and be ready to talk about how it supports your case.
There are a number of useful sites that will enable you to do some of this research and preparation on line.
You will need to bring all plans and documents relevant to your case. It is useful to have copies of those documents to give to the commissioner or judge and to the other parties.
You should take along a pen and paper so that you can take notes
The commissioner’s or judge’s secretary will meet you outside the conference room before the conference starts. He or she will take your name and contact details, and you can ask them any other queries you have before going into the conference room. After all the parties have arrived the secretary will usher you in to the conference room and indicate where you should sit. The Court requests that you turn off all mobile device whilst in conference to facilitate the discussions without interruptions.
See Court Behaviour for further information.
Conferences are conducted in a meeting room. There is no set procedure although court protocols apply. The commissioner’s or judge’s secretary will tell you when to enter the conference room and where to sit. The commissioner or judge will enter, undertake introductions and explain the conference process to the parties.
The commissioner or judge cannot make the parties agree. He or she can only assist in helping the parties reach an agreement themselves. How that happens varies from conference to conference. Sometimes the commissioner or judge will suggest a compromise. Sometimes a party will make a suggestion. Sometimes a party will have a change of heart. However it happens, the majority of matters end in an agreement of some kind.
No formal record is kept of what is said at the conference. The commissioner or judge and his or her secretary may make some notes during the conference but the content is only a guide to what occurred. This is to ensure that the discussion remain confidential.
If an agreement is reached at the conference, the agreement is usually recorded in some way. Often that is done by the commissioner or judge making an order that reflects the agreement. Once the order is made the agreement is binding on all the parties.
If the conference doesn’t end in an agreement, the conference may be postponed to another day (or ‘adjourned’) to give parties time to go away and take some further actions or to further consider their position.
If no agreement is reached the appeal will proceed to the next step - a hearing.
Even if a conference doesn’t result in an agreement it is often useful because it helps the parties (and the court) clarify what the dispute is. It also often narrows the issues.
If agreement is not reached, the commissioner or judge may discuss some of the practicalities of the hearing. He or she will talk to you, and the other parties, about things like:
when the hearing should be held and how long it will take
where it should be held (if not in Adelaide)
if lay witnesses will be heard in a country location rather than in Adelaide
what special arrangements (if any) are going to necessary for the hearing
what other steps (if any) the parties need to take before the hearing
Usually the commissioner or judge will be able to decide at the conference when and where the hearing will be held. You will be handed a notice giving you the hearing date and location. Sometimes though, those things will not be able to be decided on the spot and so your case will have to be postponed (or ‘adjourned’) to a directions hearing.