Thursday, March 01, 2018

Worth an OIA: Ministerial weekly briefings

Want to know what the government is doing? Every week, every Minister receives a weekly briefing for each of their portfolios, setting out what they need to pay attention to, areas of particular interest, upcoming events, current media coverage, Cabinet papers and OIA requests. Its basicly the Minister's high-level picture of their portfolio. These briefings are subject to the OIA, so they can be requested. And they're illuminating. I've recently requested the briefings from the latter part of last year from the Minister of Conservation, and while information has been withheld for various reasons (mostly because it is under "active consideration" or legal advice), they still reveal a huge amount about what the government is doing. Most notably - and something I didn't see any media reports of - the Minister of Conservation has already been protecting conservation land from mining by denying a "minimum impact permit" exploration permit to a mining company in Golden Bay (the application is reported here, but the denial seems to have gone unnoted). There's also regular updates on the battle for our birds, myrtle rust, and various one-off issues. The lists of Cabinet papers and briefings show that the Minister is looking at preventing mining and drilling, as well as the Kermadecs Marine Reserve proposal, while the list of OIAs give a good picture of what people ask DoC about (largely 1080, but it also shows how wrong Peter Dunne was about who uses the OIA).

The Conservation briefings are here:

Finally, these sorts of briefings would seem to be a perfect candidate for proactive release, in that they are hugely informative about the business of government and enable people to both see what is being done and follow up with more specific queries. An initial release after a month or two should give a good picture, but it would need a followup after six months to release information initially withheld for active consideration. Alternatively, people could just adopt a Minister and start requesting (ideally using FYI, so the responses are public), and eventually they'll get sick enough of the work to proactively release anyway.