Friday, October 09, 2020

Another call for OIA reform

A collection of top-level environmental and human rights NGOs is calling for reform of the Official Information Act:

The Child Poverty Action Group, Greenpeace, Forest and Bird, JustSpeak, New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties and Amnesty International are calling for a comprehensive, independent review of the Official Information Act 1982 (the OIA) following growing concern that it’s not fit for purpose.


Amnesty International Campaigns Director Lisa Woods says it is a crucial piece of legislation.

“It is a vital tool for holding government to account, and is sometimes the only tool available to bring to light concerning actions by those in government. However, there are serious problems with the OIA, and this is preventing the Act from doing what it was designed to do – make government more transparent.”

(Amnesty's interest is unsurprising, given their experiences with Operation Burnham. It turns out that anyone who has to use the OIA for any length of time gets radicalised towards reform...)

While the government has promised to "rewrite" the Act, they've said nothing about what they plan to do, and their past behaviour in this area is hardly encouraging. Which is why we need a public, independent review: to ensure that any change reflects the views of the public and users of the Act, rather than bureaucrats and politicians who naturally seek secrecy and unaccountability. As for the sorts of changes we need to make, I've taken a first stab at it here.