Request for information about tangata whenua rights
Requester seeking official statement from Minister—information not held—explanation would need to be created
A requester asked the Minister of Maori Affairs ‘what right have today’s Maori to call themselves “tangata whenua” or the indigenous people of New Zealand’. The request was stated to be made under the OIA. The Minister refused the request under section 18(g), on the basis that the information was not held, and section 18(h), on the basis that it was frivolous or vexatious. The requester complained to the Ombudsman.
It was explained to the requester that while it is permissible to seek information by asking questions under the OIA, a distinction must be drawn between questions which seek information that is ‘held’, and questions which seek to elicit an opinion or explanation. The primary purpose of the OIA is to allow requesters to seek information ‘held’ by agencies. It is not a mechanism for requesters to seek an agency’s explanation or opinion.
The question in this case did not appear to be seeking information held by the Minister. Instead, the requester was seeking an explanation or official statement from the Minister about the basis on which Maori are considered, or call themselves, tangata whenua. This sort of request would require the Minister to create information in order to respond. The requested information was not held for the purpose of the OIA.
The Chief Ombudsman declined to investigate.
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.