The Land and Environment Court


The following refers to the Land and Environment Court in NSW. Residents of other states are advised to contact the equivalent jurisdiction in their state.

What sort of things can the Land and Environment Court deal with?

The Land and Environment Court has the power to hear cases involving land anywhere in New South Wales. The most common things the Court deals with are building, development and environmental matters.

The land and environment court can:
  • Hear appeals about development application decisions by your Local Council.
  • Hear appeals about building application decisions by your Local Council.
  • Hear appeals about Orders and Notices issued by your Local Council.
  • Hear appeals against land valuations by the Office of the Valuer general.
  • Award compensation if your land is acquired by the government.
  • Deal with environmental crimes, such as pollution.
  • Hear appeals from people found guilty of an environmental offence in the Local Court.
The Land and Environment Court also has the power to make decisions about certain types of native title claims in New South Wales, under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, 1983.

What happens in the court room at the Land and Environment Court when an Assessor is hearing the case?

The following information describes what happens in the courtroom during a hearing before either an assessor or a Judge of the Environment Court. Judges of the Land and Environment Court only hear cases involving criminal offences, civil enforcements, appeals against a decision of an Assessor or cases that raise important issues of law.

Assessors hear cases involving building applications, development applications and valuations.

Just prior to the hearing, a Court Attendant will ask you and the other side for the names of your lawyers or representatives. The Court Attendant will then write the names on a slip of paper and places the paper on the bench. This is where the Assessor sits.

The Court Attendant will then ask whether both sides are ready to start. If both sides are ready the Court Attendant will turn on the sound recording equipment and will then go to the door behind the bench. The Court Attendant then says "silence, all stand" and the Assessor enters the Court room. The Assessor walks across and stands in front of the Assessor's chair. Everybody bows and they sit down. The Court Attendant then says, "the Land and Environment Court is now in session".

The following is a general outline of what happens next.
  1. The Council makes an Opening address.
    Usually the Council begins the case. Sometimes the Council's lawyer or representative will give an opening address which is a short summary of what the case is all about.
  2. You give your Opening Address.
    At the end of that address the Assessor will either invite you to comment. Sometimes, the Assessor or Judge may ask the Council's lawyer or representative to proceed with the evidence.
  3. The Council examines its witnesses.
    The usual practice when the Council's lawyer or representative calls a witness is for the Council's lawyer or representative to ask a number of questions. This is called the examination in chief.
  4. You can cross- examine the Council's witnesses.
    The Assessor will then ask you if you would like to ask questions of any of the Council's witnesses. This is called cross-examination.
  5. The Council and you may then re-examine the witness.
    The Council's lawyer or representative can then ask further questions, called re-examination and the Court may permit you to ask further questions.
  6. You call your witnesses.
    The Council usually calls all its witnesses and you are then asked to call your witnesses.
The same procedure applies with your witnesses and then both parties will be asked whether they wish to make submissions. This is a chance for both sides to comment on the evidence that is before the Court. Submissions give the views of each party on the way they consider the case should be decided by the Assessor or Judge. If a lawyer is involved, prior cases may be quoted to assist the Court.

If I do not like the decision of a Land and Environment Court Assessor, can I appeal?

In some cases, yes. You can appeal from an Assessor's decision to a Judge of the Land and Environment Court on a question of law only. You cannot appeal against an Assessor's decision just because you don't agree with the outcome. You can only appeal if you have a reason to believe that the Assessor made a mistake about the law in making the decision.

If you decide to appeal against the decision of the assessor, your case will go to a hearing before a Judge of the Land and Environment Court.

If you wish to appeal against the decision of an Assessor you should discuss this with the Registry of the Land and Environment Court or obtain some legal advice.

Other information may be obtained by contacting the Land and Environment Court on (02) 9228 8388. Or write to them at: Land and Environment Court Level 4, 225 Macquarie Street, Sydney. NSW 2000.