Chief Ombudsman issues findings on access to National Stadium reports by Auckland Councillors
The Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier says a decision to impose conditions on Auckland Councillors gaining full access to two reports on the proposed National Stadium was justified.
Councillors Cathy Casey and John Watson complained to the Ombudsman in June about the decision of Auckland Council to apply conditions to their access to the National Stadium and Precinct Pre-Feasibility Study and associated Funding and Delivery Study.
Councillors were offered physical copies of the full reports to be read and returned. This is because the Council considered some of the information commercially sensitive and confidential.
In his Final Opinion, Mr Boshier says there is a strong public interest in making sure councillors have access to the information they need to perform their duties.
“Each case needs to be judged on its own merits. The information in question must be carefully assessed and a balance achieved between transparency on the one hand and the need for appropriate confidentiality on the other."
“I have found the Council’s decision to release the information to councillors with conditions to be justified. This approach allowed councillors to be kept informed, while also recognising the particular commercial sensitivities of the information.”
Mr Boshier says he also looked at whether the specific conditions imposed by the Council were reasonable.
“The conditions seemed pretty straightforward to me. Councillors were asked not to make any additional copies of the information and to return the reports once they were read. I know other organisations impose similar controls on the distribution of sensitive information.”
“A time limit on the Councillors access was not introduced, and councillors could request and view the information at their desks as often as they wanted.”