Last week, I welcomed the government's move to put tenancy tribunal decisions online, on the basis that it would allow people to see how the law is interpreted and applied in practice and therefore give them greater certainty about what their rights as a tenant or landlord actually are. Unfortunately, not everyone feels that way. One objection has come from Geoff King of Tenancy Information NZ, on the grounds that it would undermine his business:
[King] questioned the Government's decision to put the tribunal's rulings online, saying he would have paid to get the rulings and provide them to the rental sector.
"Why is the Government trying to reinvent the wheel? There are already tenant checking systems in place in the private arena via Tenancy Information NZ and Baycorp," King said.
"The Government could have saved the taxpayer a lot of money and given access to the information to these two companies, which have a financial interest in selling the information," he said.
So, just to get this straight, he thinks that the government should keep public information secret or sell it only to him so he can continue to profit from it. It's an astonishingly narrow view, which ignores completely the substantial public benefit of making these records widely available. But this is a small business owner we're talking about, I suppose.
Contrary to King's beliefs, it is not the purpose of government to guarantee the profits of existing businesses, or insulate them from technological and social change at the expense of the rest of society. Open public records are now a basic part of our political culture, and if King can't adapt to this situation (or see the very obvious opportunities it presents), then his business deserves to go to the wall.