Monday, July 29, 2019

Something is rotten on the West Coast

That's the only conclusion that can be drawn from Development West Coast contractor Kevin Stratful's demand that West Coast local authorities ignore the LGOIMA for his benefit:

A Development West Coast contractor has urged West Coast councils to "avoid" responding to requests for official information.


In an email chain to Coast mayors and council chief executives, obtained by Stuff, Stratful said all councils and the DWC should have a joint policy on how Official Information Act (OIA) requests were handled "and what process or policies are put into place to avoid them".

He said the leaders should agree on a "West Coast Way" of handling OIA requests. He also said he had previously been given "the chance to edit" responses before they were sent to the media.

"If current OIA request continue and the ED [economic development] unit is subject to OIA it will become a joke resorting to back street meetings and coffee shops to get anything done," he wrote.

Stratful has a lot to fear from LGOIMA. Quite apart from the usual oversight it entails, he's involved in a dodgy "waste to energy" incinerator scheme which has seen a mayor censured for purportedly signing contracts without the approval of his council. He has a direct conflict of interest over this with his employer. So he has reason to be particularly fearful of transparency. The good news is that the councils seem to have ignored his demands - and now they are public, its prima facie grounds for an Ombudsman's complaint for any withholds related to him or Development West Coast. By seeking to avoid transparency, he's simply told people where to point the spotlight.

Meanwhile, there's a bigger question here: Development West Coast is a charitable trust administering $124 million of public money given to the West Coast as "compensation" for the end of native forestry there. Its board is mostly elected by West Coast voters, with a few government and local body appointees. It deals with public money for public purposes. Shouldn't it therefore be directly subject to the LGOIMA oversight regime, like licensing trusts or various other trust boards are?