Charge for extracting information from Housing New Zealand’s database
Estimate of charges to extract specific information from database—reasonableness of charge—absence of appropriately qualified staff—need to contract systems analyst—revised estimate provided—charge not unreasonable
A complaint was received from a Community Law Centre about the charge Housing New Zealand estimated for the provision of information sought by the Centre under the Official Information Act (OIA). The Centre had requested information concerning sales of Housing New Zealand properties in a number of streets. Housing New Zealand had estimated that to extract the information from its database would cost $65 per hour and that each request would take 8 hours to answer. The complainant considered these charges were unreasonable.
Housing New Zealand advised that there was a problem accessing the information at issue because it was not required for normal business reporting reasons. As a consequence, a special and separate interrogation of the database had to be undertaken to retrieve the information. It explained that it had only four personnel fully employed providing information for business reporting purposes, and none of its Information Technology staff had the skills to extract the information. Accordingly, it would be necessary to engage a systems analyst to extract the information. Housing New Zealand estimated that a systems analyst would cost approximately $65 per hour and each request would take up to 8 hours of computer time on average to complete. Housing New Zealand had suggested to the complainant that Valuation New Zealand might hold the information at issue.
In essence therefore the cost of retrieving the information at issue related to the lack of suitably qualified in-house resources available to extract the information. Although it appeared unusual that Housing New Zealand did not have staff qualified to extract information in the form requested from its database, after in-depth discussions with relevant staff, there was no reason to doubt that this was the case. After further consideration of the work involved, Housing New Zealand revised its original estimate of the time required to extract the information to 12 hours. However, it noted that the new current charge-out rate for the work was $80 per hour. After seeking technical advice on this point, it was concluded that, in the circumstances of this case, the revised charge was reasonable.
This case note is published under the authority of the Ombudsmen Rules 1989. It sets out an Ombudsman’s view on the facts of a particular case. It should not be taken as establishing any legal precedent that would bind an Ombudsman in future.