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Contents (1997 - 156)
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Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 No 156
Current version for 20 December 2019 to date (accessed 20 February 2020 at 10:52)
Chapter 9 Part 9.6
Part 9.6 Formal inquiries
310   Conduct of inquiries
(1) Subject-matter of inquiries An inquiry may be conducted by the EPA under this Part into any matter relating to the protection of the environment.
(2) EPA may institute inquiry The EPA may determine that such an inquiry be conducted.
(3) Minister may require inquiry The Minister may require that such an inquiry be conducted.
(4) Matters to be examined The EPA may determine the matters to be examined in the course of an inquiry under this Part, including an inquiry that the Minister has required to be conducted.
(5) Other powers not affected Nothing in this section limits the power of the EPA to conduct an inquiry into any matter even though it has appointed another body or person to do so.
311   Person or body conducting inquiries
(1) Constitution of inquiry The EPA may appoint any of the following to conduct an inquiry under this Part—
(a)  a committee established under the Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991,
(b)  one or more members of the Board of the EPA or of any such committee,
(c)  any other body, or any other person or persons, the EPA considers appropriate to conduct the inquiry.
(2) Appointment of persons to assist inquiry The EPA may appoint one or more persons to assist the inquiry.
(3) Chairperson The EPA may, where two or more persons are appointed to conduct the inquiry, appoint one of those persons to preside at any meeting of those persons for the purposes of the inquiry.
(4) Remuneration A person appointed by the EPA to conduct or assist the inquiry may be paid such remuneration and allowances (if any) as the Minister determines in respect of the person.
312   Procedures at inquiries
(1) General procedure The procedure to be followed at an inquiry under this Part is to be determined by the body or person conducting it, subject to this Act and the regulations.
(2) Notice to provide information or produce documents The body or person conducting the inquiry may, by notice in writing given to any person, require the person within such reasonable time as may be specified in the notice—
(a)  to furnish to that body or person such information, and
(b)  to produce to that body or person such documents in the person’s possession or under the person’s control,
as may be required for the purposes of the inquiry and as may be specified in the notice, whether generally or otherwise.
(3) Notice to give evidence and produce documents The body or person conducting the inquiry may, by notice in writing given to any person, require the person—
(a)  to attend at a specified time and place before that body or person and thereafter from time to time as required by that body or person, and
(b)  to give evidence concerning any matter the subject of the inquiry, and
(c)  to produce all such documents in the person’s possession or under the person’s control as may be required for the purposes of the inquiry and as may be specified in the notice, whether generally or otherwise.
(4) Mode of evidence The body or person conducting the inquiry may require any such evidence to be given in writing or orally.
(5) Evidence may be given on oath The body or person conducting the inquiry may, subject to section 13 of the Oaths Act 1900, require any such evidence to be given on oath, and for that purpose the person presiding may administer an oath.
(6) Written statement The body or person conducting the inquiry may permit a person to give evidence by sending to the body or person a written statement, verified in such manner as the body or person allows.
(7) Offence of not complying with notice A person who neglects or refuses to comply with the requirements of a notice given to the person under this section is guilty of an offence.
Maximum penalty—100 penalty units.
(8) Offence of false information or evidence A person who—
(a)  furnishes any information pursuant to subsection (2) knowing that it is false or misleading in a material particular, or
(b)  gives any evidence pursuant to subsection (3) knowing that it is false or misleading in a material particular,
is guilty of an offence.
Maximum penalty—100 penalty units.
(9) Expenses The regulations may prescribe expenses to be allowed to persons attending or giving evidence under this section.
(10) Nature of evidence The body or person conducting the inquiry is not bound by the rules of evidence, and may be informed in such manner as the body or person thinks fit.
(11) Public interest immunity Nothing in this Part affects any law relating to public interest immunity.
(12) Self-incrimination Nothing in this Part affects any law relating to immunity of an individual from self-incrimination.
313   Public nature of inquiries
(1)  An inquiry under this Part is to be held in public.
(2)  Before the inquiry starts, the body or person conducting it is required to give notice, by advertisement in the Gazette and in such newspapers as the body or person thinks appropriate, of the intention to hold the inquiry, of its subject and of the time and place at which it is to start.
(3)  However, if the body or person conducting the inquiry is satisfied that it is desirable to do so in the public interest because of the confidential nature of any evidence or matter or for any other reason, the body or person may do either or both of the following—
(a)  direct that the inquiry or any part of it take place in private and give directions as to the persons who may be present, or
(b)  give directions prohibiting or restricting the publication of evidence given at the inquiry or of matters contained in documents provided for the inquiry.
(4)  A person who publishes any evidence or matter in contravention of any such direction of the body or person conducting the inquiry is guilty of an offence unless—
(a)  the publication of the evidence was made with the consent of the person who gave the evidence or the publication of the matter was made with the consent of the person who provided the document, or
(b)  the evidence or matter has already been lawfully published, or
(c)  the person became aware of the evidence or matter otherwise than by reason, directly or indirectly, of the giving of the evidence at the inquiry or the provision of the document at the inquiry, or
(d)  the person had any other lawful excuse to do so.
Maximum penalty—200 penalty units.
(5)  If evidence is given by written statement, the body or person conducting the inquiry is to make available to the public in such manner as the body or person thinks fit the contents of the statement. This does not apply to matter the publication of which, in the opinion of the body or person, would be contrary to the public interest because of its confidential nature or for any other reason.
314   Report of inquiry
(1) Report The body or person conducting an inquiry under this Part is to prepare a report to the EPA of its findings and recommendations. The report is to be provided to the Minister by the EPA if the Minister directed that the inquiry be conducted.
(2) Report to be made public The body or person conducting the inquiry is to make the report public, except so far as it contains evidence or matters protected from public disclosure under section 313 (3) (b) and (4).