Chief Ombudsman’s opinion on OIA requests about Operation Burnham
Following the publication of the book Hit & Run in March 2017, a number of people made requests under the Official Information Act (OIA) to the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) for information about Operation Burnham.
NZDF withheld much of the requested information primarily on the basis that release of the information would be likely to prejudice the security and defence of New Zealand or the future entrusting of information to New Zealand.
The Chief Ombudsman received several complaints about NZDF’s decisions on these requests and decided to investigate them together.
During the investigation, following discussions with the Chief Ombudsman, NZDF agreed to release some further information. This was released on NZDF’s website on 6 March 2018.
This has been a substantial investigation in which a considerable amount of material has been considered. It has accordingly taken some time to conclude.
After careful consideration of the information at issue, comments from NZDF and comments from the requesters, the Chief Ombudsman formed the opinion that NZDF’s refusal of the majority of the remaining information was justified under sections 6(a) and (b) of the OIA.
However the Chief Ombudsman considered that there was no basis for refusing copies of briefing papers in full, or for refusing to respond to questions about the identification of insurgent casualties and has recommended that NZDF release this information.