Request for list of buildings whose owners had not responded to Council’s requests for information about non-ductile columns
Following the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake, the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) carried out a review to identify buildings with certain features which were suspected of having contributed to the collapse of the Canterbury Television (CTV) building and the loss of 115 lives.
In line with MBIE’s nationwide review, Wellington City Council (the Council) wrote to each of the owners of the identified buildings within its territory and requested them to complete a review and provide information about their buildings’ potential non-ductile columns.
On 19 May 2017, a journalist subsequently made a request to the Council, under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA), for a list of the buildings whose owners had not responded to the Council’s review.
On 16 June, the Council advised the journalist that there were five buildings whose owners had not, at the time of his LGOIMA request, responded satisfactorily to the Council. However, the Council withheld the locations of the buildings under section 7(2)(b)(ii) of LGOIMA, as it considered that providing the journalist with the list would unreasonably prejudice the commercial position of the building owners.
The journalist sought an Ombudsman’s investigation and review of the Council’s decision under the LGOIMA. He submitted that the release of the information at issue would not unreasonably prejudice the commercial position of the building owners, as he would ensure that the information would be published in a context which made it clear that being on the list did not necessarily mean that the buildings were unsafe.
The journalist further submitted that it was in the public interest for this information to be made available.