LAST month, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) announced the creation of a new 'Major Case List' for planning developments worth more than $5 million, to commence on 3 May, 2010.
The new list aims to speed up decision-making of major projects in the Planning and Environment List, with an objective to decide cases within 16 weeks of applications being lodged with the Tribunal.
"Our objective is to expedite major cases by ensuring that the process is made clear to
the parties at the outset and that hearings are not unnecessarily delayed. Adjournments
will only be granted in exceptional circumstances." VCAT President Justice Iain Ross said.
The Tribunal stated that a new Practice Note will govern the Major Case List.
Key timeline benchmarks will apply to the Major Case List to ensure that cases are decided within the 16-week target. These benchmarks include holding:
- A practice day hearing within 4 weeks of an application being lodged;
- Mediation within 6 weeks of an application being lodged;
- A hearing within 12 weeks of an application being lodged; and
- A decision or interim decision delivered within 4 weeks of the last date of hearing.
Justice Ross also said that VCAT plans to introduce a 'Short Cases List' to deal with short and less complex planning cases.
The changes come as VCAT this month released a three year strategic plan discussion paper aimed at transforming VCAT. Community consultation is expected to take place through May and June, with the final strategic plan to be released in August.
The plan's vision is for VCAT to be "an innovative, flexible and accountable organisation which is accessible and delivers a fair and efficient dispute resolution service." Some proposals of the plan include increased community engagement, new members to take an oath of office and greater accessibility for members of the public, with the possibility for VCAT hearings to be held in suburban and regional locations.
The Tribunal's strategic plan discussion paper, titled 'Transforming VCAT – Towards a Three Year Strategic Plan: Discussion Paper May 2010', is available from the VCAT website.
For more information, visit the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) website <http://www.vcat.gov.au/>.