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  • Report on an unannounced inspection of Whanganui Prison - 4 September 2018

    OPCAT reports
    The following report has been prepared in my capacity as a National Preventive Mechanism under the Crimes of Torture Act 1989 (COTA). My function under the COTA is to examine and make any recommendations that I consider appropriate to improve the treatment and conditions of detained persons in a number of places of detention, including prisons. This report examines the treatment and conditions of persons detained in Whanganui Prison.
  • Local Authority excludes public from meeting when agenda item about water issues

    Case notes
    Complaint about a Local Authority (the Council) to exclude the public from a part of its Audit and Risk Committee meeting regarding its discussion of agenda item relating to water quality and water restriction issues—insufficient weight was given to the public interest in the subject matter of the agenda item
  • Request for information about staff grievances and allegations of bullying

    Opinions
    Sam Sherwood, on behalf of Stuff, made a request to Selwyn District Council for information about staff grievances and allegations of bullying.
  • Request for draft report prepared by PwC on Auckland Stadium

    Case notes
    Report refused because it was in draft form and commercially sensitive—parts of report withholdable however no basis for blanket withholding—strong public interest in release of report in part
  • Report on an unannounced follow-up inspection of Christchurch Women's Prison - 4 April 2018

    OPCAT reports
    In 2007, the Ombudsmen were designated one of the National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) under the Crimes of Torture Act (COTA), with responsibility for examining and monitoring the general conditions and treatment of detainees in New Zealand prisons.
  • Request for draft guidelines on religious instruction and observance in schools

    Case notes
    Officials still in the process of drafting—premature disclosure in advance of the planned public consultation process was not in the overall public interest
  • Report on an unannounced inspection of Arohata Upper Prison - 21 March 2018

    OPCAT reports
    The Upper Prison was facing considerable challenges. Resources, infrastructure and staffing were under pressure, which was compounded by the geographical separation from the administrative centre at Tawa. Day-to-day operating systems and arrangements for dealing with women were not fully embedded. Reception and induction processes were poor, and information for foreign prisoners was not available. Significant delays in access to personal property were a source of frustration for many women, reflected in the growing number of complaints and misconducts.
  • Early resolution of a potential water restriction to a family home

    Case notes
    A family received notice that an agency would be severely restricting its water supply because of an overdue account. Once the Ombudsman became involved, the agency reviewed its accounts and realised it was in error. On the Ombudsman’s request, the agency apologised to the family and committed to reviewing its accounts more carefully before advising of possible water restrictions. From complaint to resolution, the issue was resolved in only 12 working days without the family suffering water restrictions.
  • Administrative error leading to loss of opportunity to name a road

    Case notes
    In mid-2016, the owners of land containing a private road became aware that Kaipara District Council (the Council) had excluded them from a consultation process that it had initiated among residents earlier that year to determine a name for the road.
  • Request for draft reports prepared by EY on Information Services

    Case notes
    Draft reports were in fact final reports—some information publicly available—negotiations had been concluded—neither s 7(2)(c)(ii) nor s 7(2)(i) apply—significant public interest in release to promote transparency of Council’s decision making processes and accountability for expenditure of ratepayer money
  • Request for Skypath business case and procurement plan

    Case notes
    Releasing business case and procurement plan would unreasonably prejudice the commercial position of the private partner in a public private partnership—withholding strengths and weaknesses of negotiating position necessary to enable Council to carry on negotiations without prejudice or disadvantage—ss 7(2)(b)(ii), 7(2)(c)(i), 7(2)(i) apply
  • Request for draft internal review of International Visitor Survey

    Case notes
    Internal review still in draft form—redacted comments comprised preliminary views of individual within agency—s 9(2)(g)(i) applied—no overriding public interest in disclosure
  • Department of Corrections staff to follow legislative requirements when segregating inmate

    Case notes
    Department of Corrections held prisoner in Management Unit without following required procedure—segregation legislation and regulations are clear and prescriptive
  • Local Authority fails to include relevant information on a Land Information Memorandum

    Case notes
    Local Authority omits to identify potential slippage risk on a Land Information Memorandum (LIM) issued to the complainant—Ombudsman sustains complaint
  • Local Authority not unreasonable to turn off water supply at property owned by a Trust

    Case notes
    Decision by Local Authority to turn off water supply in building occupied intermittently—Ombudsman finds not unreasonable
  • Investigation of the Department of Corrections in relation to the transport of prisoners

    Systemic investigations
    Under the Ombudsmen Act 1975, it is a function of the Ombudsmen to investigate complaints relating to matters of administration affecting persons in their personal capacity against various bodies, including the Department of Corrections (the Department). Pursuant to this Act, the Ombudsmen have power to investigate complaints by prisoners about all aspects of their detention by the Department. On 25 August 2006, prisoner Liam Ashley died as a result of injuries sustained while being transported in a van with other prisoners. Liam was aged 17, and had been the subject of violence by a 25 year old prisoner who was subsequently convicted of Liam’s murder. The Corrections Act 2004 aims to ensure that “custodial sentences and related orders … are administered in a safe, secure, humane, and effective manner”. It is a fundamental responsibility of the Department to achieve this.
  • Request for advice and ‘think piece’ on reprioritisation or savings in Vote Education

    Case notes
    Disclosure of internal discussion documents and advice to Ministers would prejudice ongoing decision making process—disclosure of internal ‘think piece’ would inhibit future expression of free and frank opinions by officials—ss 9(2)(f)(iv) and 9(2)(g)(i) provide good reason to withhold
  • Request for draft briefings to the incoming government

    Case notes
    Disclosure of draft briefings to the incoming government would make officials reluctant to be so free and frank in expressing their initial and untested views and cause them to prefer less efficient and transparent verbal exchanges—section 9(2)(g)(i) applies
  • Request for reports on Fire Service levy audits

    Case notes
    Request for reports on Fire Service levy audits—duty of agents of New Zealand Fire Service Commission to report results of examination of records, books and accounts of insurance companies and agents to the Commission—s 51B Fire Service Act 1975—secrecy provisions—release would be contrary to the provisions of the Fire Service Act
  • Request for affidavit of CYFS social worker

    Case notes
    Request for affidavit of CYFS social worker made in connection with Family Court hearing—request refused—release of information would be contrary to provisions of specified enactment—Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1989, s 438(3)
  • Council agreed to purchase land containing toxic residue given that purchasers were unaware of site state

    Case notes
    Prior to availability of a LIM, property owners’ development of their land revealed previous use was illegal toxic waste dump—Council knew this prior to purchase but had taken no action to either assess or remedy the problem as a matter of public safety—Ombudsman concluded the Council had a responsibility to assist the complainants—Council then purchased the land with the intention of declaring it an ‘orphan site’ prior to assessment and clean up if necessary.
  • Department of Corrections failed to meet requirements before placing inmate in restrictive regime

    Case notes
    Department of Corrections placement of inmate on restrictive regime designed for the most disruptive inmates unreasonable because criteria for placement not met—placement deemed unreasonable—inmate immediately returned to mainstream
  • Council offers ex gratia payment to complainant following its failure to provide correct information about dispute between neighbours

    Case notes
    Abatement notice issued in respect of non-complying structure—verbal agreement brokered by Council regarding acceptable modifications—modifications undertaken as agreed—other party to agreement disputed terms of agreement and withdrew—Council provided incorrect calculations regarding non-compliance—owner of non-complying structure incurred nugatory expenses—Council agreed to make ex-gratia payment to resolve matter
  • Department of Corrections applies prison visiting rules too rigidly

    Case notes
    Special family visit to inmate denied—decision contrary to Department's national standard—prison agreed to review its local instructions to ensure consistency with spirit and intent of national standard
  • Department of Corrections delays prisoner release when segregation order expired

    Case notes
    Delayed release from ‘precautionary segregation’—complaint upheld—implementation of computerised bring-up system to avoid recurrence of problem—no recommendation necessary
  • Request for names of ‘eminent New Zealanders’ consulted during preparation of Intelligence and Security Agencies Bill

    Case notes
    Request for names of ‘eminent New Zealanders’ who were part of the consultative process in preparing the Intelligence and Security Agencies Bill—request refused under s 9(2)(g)(i) —individuals consulted—in respect of those who advised that disclosure would inhibit them from giving free and frank advice to the Government in future, section 9(2)(g)(i) applied—need to withhold outweighed by countervailing public interest
  • Prison unnecessarily holds inmates in secure unit

    Case notes
    Placement of minimum secure inmates in maximum security conditions