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The following is a brief summary of what parties can expect regarding each type of hearing:

Compulsory Conference

A compulsory conference is an opportunity for the parties to a matter to discuss the issues in dispute and explore the possibility of settlement. 

As the name suggests all parties must attend a compulsory conference.  Failure to attend (without good reason) may result in a party being ordered to pay costs or expenses wasted by the other party.

A compulsory conference is conducted by a person appointed by NTCAT, usually a tribunal member.  The process is confidential.  The length of the conference will depend on the complexity of the matter, although two hours is usually allocated.

At a compulsory conference NTCAT aims to:

  • identify and clarify the issues in dispute;
  • explore options for resolution of the dispute;
  • make orders giving effect to any settlement negotiated; or
  • (if a settlement is not negotiated) make orders and directions to enable the matter to proceed to a full hearing

A tribunal member who conducts a compulsory conference will have no further involvement in the matter after the conference.  Information and evidence presented at a compulsory conference cannot be used or referred to at a hearing.

For further information, please refer to our Information Sheet - Compulsory Conferences

Directions Hearing

NTCAT may at any time convene a directions hearing for the purpose of making orders about future steps to be taken in a proceeding.

The purpose of a directions hearing is to ensure that parties are prepared for the next stage of a proceeding (usually the final hearing).  NTCAT will make any orders necessary to ensure that the issues between the parties are clearly identified and that each party is provided with the other party’s evidence.

Directions hearings usually take between 15 and 30 minutes; they are not intended to involve a detailed examination of the matter.

After a directions hearing, all parties will receive a copy of the orders made by the presiding tribunal member.

The orders generally require a party to do something - for example to serve their evidence on the other party - by a particular date.

Compliance with NTCAT’s directions is extremely important. A party who fails to comply with an order may be ordered to pay costs (for example if a hearing is adjourned as a result) or there may be other consequences (for example refusal of permission to rely on evidence not provided on time).

Final Hearing

A final hearing is conducted when a dispute has not settled at a compulsory conference or has otherwise been set down for a hearing by NTCAT.

The aim of the final hearing is to enable NTCAT to reach a decision about a matter.

A hearing will be conducted by a tribunal member who will ask each party to present their case and to make submissions.  The hearing procedure will depend on the type of dispute.

NTCAT is not bound by the rules of evidence; however, NTCAT must apply the rules of procedural fairness.  Those rules require the tribunal member to conduct an unbiased hearing at which each party has a fair opportunity to state their case.

The tribunal member will make a decision which takes into account all of the relevant evidence and is in accordance with the law.  The tribunal member may announce their decision and orders at the conclusion of the hearing, or they may do so at a later time.  In most cases, NTCAT is required to hand down a written decision and orders no later than 28 days after the hearing.