Monday, May 21, 2018

Conspiring against transparency

Radio New Zealand has yet another story of the Auckland Council failing to meet its obligations under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, and having to be ordered to release material by the Ombudsman. This time its about proposals for a new stadium. But what's interesting is how Auckland Mayor Phil Goff deliberately tried to insulate himself from having to release information on the matter:

Mr Goff personally called for the report soon after he was elected Mayor in October 2016, following 33 years in national politics.

Consultants PwC were engaged in January, although that move was not publicly announced until March, and the draft was delivered on time in June to the council agency Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA).

Mr Goff opted for a verbal briefing, and did want a copy of the draft.

The aim was clearly to lie about what he had been told, while being able to claim that the actual document wasn't held by him and could not be requested. Which is not acceptable behaviour from any elected official. But it shows how deep the OIA rot goes within Labour, and raises serious questions about Goff's compliance with the Public Records Act.

As for Auckland Council, they tried to claim that as they'd called the report a "draft", they didn't have to release it - which shows that they don't understand the law (or alternatively, are willing to lie about the law to requesters in the hope they won't complain). As the Ombudsman pointed out, "There is no basis for a blanket withholding of drafts under LGOIMA until they are completed and finalised," and this one is so old it has its own section in the common OIA misconceptions FAQ, which you'd expect the supposed professionals at Auckland Council to be familiar with. So either they're not professional or not competent. Either way, Auckland Council needs to hire a new LGOIMA team committed to obeying the law.