Wednesday, January 17, 2007



Privatising public information

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.

5 comments:

a more appropriate title would be "Nationalising private information".. as essentially thats what it is, infomation regarding a private contract between two individuals (tenant and landlord).. which is already handled privately.

Untill the govt steps in of course.

Posted by MikeE : 1/17/2007 04:39:00 PM

MikeE - lists of people and their tenants/landlords and ratings from one of the other would be private. Judicial decisions of the Tenancy Tribunal are not - we have open justice in New Zealand.

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 1/17/2007 04:54:00 PM

yeah misread it:

""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."

First time I thought it was talking about TINZ and Baycorp info..that will teach me to multitask

Posted by MikeE : 1/17/2007 09:57:00 PM

The other important point is the value of this information to tenants and organisations that support and advocate on their behalf.

As someone who has been on the winning side of a series of tribunal hearings as a tenant against one landlord I can attest that I would love future tenants of said landlord to have some idea of what they were getting in to.

If it is googlable (which I would assume it will be) all the better.

As this idiots comment attests, this is more about levelling the playing field on access to information which in my view is of primary benefit to the tenant.

Posted by roberT : 1/18/2007 12:53:00 PM

"...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."

But that is exactly what is happening to the competitors of Telecom by the governments unbundling of the local loop!

So do you support private property rights as per your blog quote above or the nefarious hand of government.

SG

Posted by Southern Gent : 1/18/2007 04:08:00 PM