Council’s decision to charge for the creation of information
Charge for supply of information—information not held in form requested—charging provisions of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 apply only to information held—ss 13(1A) and 17(e)—Council offered to create the information subject to the payment of a charge—application of Ombudsmen Act 1975—proposed charge reasonable in an administrative sense
The complainant requested from a City Council certain information he intended to use in making a submission on an application by a Church for a resource consent. The information related to total land area in the district set aside for religious purposes, any rating exemptions which applied to such land, and the impact of special land-use exemptions on Council revenue. The Council advised that several hours work would be needed to extract the information, and that the information would be made available only if the complainant was willing to pay a charge. The complainant contended that the information was necessary to allow him to participate fully in the consent process, and sought a review of the Council’s decision.
The Council explained that the information at issue was not held in the form requested. It would need to be created, either from individual property information or by performing calculations.
Although section 13(1A) of LGOIMA authorises a local authority to fix a charge for the supply of official information, the information was not ‘held’, but would need to be created by the Council. There was no basis for the Council to introduce the proposed charge or the requester to challenge it. In effect, the Council had declined the request pursuant to section 17(e) of LGOIMA for the reason that the information requested did not exist.
However, the Council had offered to create the information subject to the payment of a charge. The question at issue was then not whether the proposed charge was reasonable pursuant to the charging provisions of LGOIMA, but whether the Council’s decision was reasonable in an administrative sense pursuant to the provisions of the Ombudsmen Act.
The Council advised that the proposed charge for making the information available was significantly less than the actual cost to the Council of creating the information. In addition, the information was of a general nature and did not, on its face, address the specific circumstances of the consent application. There was no significant public interest in the supply of the information.
The view formed was that in the circumstances of the case, the proposed charge for the supply of the information was reasonable in an administrative sense.
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.