Fact Sheet 12

Tips for presenting evidence at a hearing

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Local Government Planners who have provided evidence at hearings state that the processes at VCGLR are different from their earlier planning experiences at VCAT and it is important to try to understand VCGLR processes prior to the hearing.

 

Be Prepared

 

VCGLR and VCAT hearings rely on evidence to make a decision whether or not to approve a planning permit, or application for EGMs. It is therefore important to support all material presented at a hearing with relevant data or research. Key tips for being prepared are:

 

Know all your material – anything you cite in a report, or speak to in verbal evidence, can be questioned to determine the reliability and accuracy of your statement. It is helpful if, prior to the hearing, you are clear about all sources of data you use, who prepared them, why, and what data they rely on.

 

Use comparable data – to help illustrate the significance of an issue to your case or area it is useful to always provide data for a comparable area such as metropolitan Melbourne or regional data. This will allow the decision makers to see the extent of the issue in your area compared to other areas.

 

Make the most of the time you have

 

A lot of the time that ‘experts’ spend at a hearing can be taken up responding to questions. In order to ensure that you get your points across clearly, and communicate to the hearing the key issues in your report, it might be useful to make a verbal presentation at the beginning (always confirm this approach with the legal advisers running the case). Your verbal presentation could explain:

  • the structure of your report (where the hearing can find evidence on each issue you consider; where they can find a summary of your conclusions)
  • your key findings (be prepared to clarify what pages people should look at to find evidence about each of your key findings)
  • supporting information (specific references and page numbers providing quotes or data that support your findings)

 

Be calm

 

Someone providing evidence at a hearing is also likely to be asked a range of questions by the legal teams working for both the applicant and the responsible authority (i.e. Local Government). This process is known as ‘cross examination’ and can be an adversarial process placing emphasis on the ‘expert’ to validate their findings.  To ensure you are ready to respond well to a cross examination process the following tips might be useful:

  • Remember that the aim of all your answers is to help the decision makers (VCAT or VCGLR members) understand the implications of the application – it is useful to direct your answers to the Panel or Chair
  • Do NOT agree to something if you are unclear about the statement being made – ask the questioner to repeat the question
  • You may seek assistance from the Panel or Chair if the question continues to be unclear
  • You might like to take the opportunity of a question to refer to data or research that you were not able to cover in your opening address, but that is included in your report. Always refer to research that supports your key findings and be prepared to cite the page number and specific research data


For further information See Fact Sheet 11 Tips on Conducting a Social and Economic Impact Assessment of an Application for EGMs and What is the role of local communities in the application process?

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