Thursday, January 28, 2016

"Not relevant"

Last year I lodged one of my usual OIA requests seeking information on Tau Henare's crony appointment to the board of Housing New Zealand. In December I got a response, showing that it was the usual crony process: Henare was nominated by English and was the only candidate interviewed. He was also, according to the response, to be paid $49,000 a year for the position.

The response also included extensive redactions of material as "not relevant to the request". Thanks to Nick Smith, we know that such redactions cannot be trusted not to be misleading or to cover in-scope material, so I requested the documents direct from Treasury. They revealed that the "not relevant" material covered Bill English's plans to give the Housing New Zealand Board a whopping 63% pay rise, from $30,000 a year to $49,000 a year. This had been redacted as "not relevant" from a request specifically asking how much Henare was being paid.

Just another example of how this government abuses the OIA in an effort to hide politically embarrassing information. And the lesson is that if they ever redact any information as "out of scope" or "not relevant", request it immediately - because it is clearly something they do not want you to see, but cannot think of a legal reason to withhold.