Request for advice on daylight savings and 2011 Rugby World Cup

Constitutional conventions
Legislation:
Official Information Act 1982
Section 9
Legislation display text:
Official Information Act 1982, s 9(2)(f)(iv)
Agency:
Minister
Ombudsman:
Dame Beverley Wakem
Case number(s):
175435
Issue date:
Language:
English

Anticipatory advice—no opinions or recommendations—s 9(2)(f)(iv) does not apply—public interest in disclosure—issues of national importance demand timely transparency

The Minister for the Rugby World Cup refused to release Cabinet advice regarding the amendment of daylight savings under section 9(2)(f)(iv), and the requester complained to the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman noted the limited nature of the advice at issue. It briefly outlined stakeholder preferences and set out the process the Government would follow to arrive at a decision on the issue. As the advice was anticipatory, it did not contain opinions or recommendations as to what the decision should be. In the Ombudsman’s opinion, disclosure of the issue and the fact that it was under consideration by officials was not likely to prejudice the ability of government to receive and deliberate upon future advice in an effective and orderly manner.

The Minister observed that there had been public speculation the issue was under consideration, but no official confirmation of that fact. However, the Ombudsman noted that in withholding advice about ‘daylight savings and the 2011 Rugby World Cup’ the Minister had, in effect, already confirmed that advice had been tendered about the issue and therefore that the issue was under consideration.

The Ombudsman also noted that despite the public speculation, there had been no resulting media frenzy or misinformed public debate. There was nothing ambiguous in the content of the advice which led her to think that any resulting public debate would be ill-informed. 

In these circumstances the Ombudsman was not convinced that disclosure of the information at issue would be likely to prejudice the ability of Ministers and Cabinet to consider advice on the issue, and therefore that release of the information would undermine the interests which section 9(2)(f)(iv) seeks to protect.

The Ombudsman also observed that there was a public interest in disclosing the fact that this matter was under consideration by the Government. The availability of this information to the people of New Zealand at this time would ‘enable their more effective participation’ at a later time when policy advice on the issue was under consideration. 

The Minister had acknowledged that ‘the potential alteration of daylight savings is of national importance, and will affect all New Zealanders’.  In the Ombudsman’s opinion, ‘issues of national importance demand timely transparency so that decision makers have a contestable avenue of advice to that put forward by officials before decisions are taken’. 

The Minister complied with the Ombudsman’s recommendation to release the advice.

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.

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