Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Another government agency which refuses to enforce the law

Back in 2008 Parliament established the Walking Access Commission. While initially concerned with negotiating public access, the Commission now administers a network of walkways across New Zealand. It has an explicit function of enforcing the law around these walkways, and there are offence provisions to ensure safe public access. In order to enforce these, the Commission can appoint enforcement officers, who have statutory powers to prevent offences.

So how many of these enforcement officers has the Commission appointed to ensure safe access across its walkways? Someone used FYI, the public OIA request site, to ask them, and the answer may surprise you: zero. They have never appointed any enforcement officers, and have never prosecuted or fined anybody. While police and DoC rangers can also enforce the law, if they had a policy of outsourcing enforcement to those agencies, you think they'd say so. So the natural conclusion is that this agency is simply uninterested in enforcing the law.

Is this a problem? Parliament certainly thought it was a big enough deal to grant these powers in the Act, and refusing to enforce them (even by outsourcing to another agency) seems like a frustration of Parliamentary intent. And if they're not going to bother, then maybe those powers need to be removed, and the job explicitly given to a competent agency which can do it: DoC.