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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 details of risk management processes

    Case notes
    Request for details of risk management processes—relevant documents provided apart from the ‘risk register’—register consisted of free and frank expressions of opinion—release might undermine risk management strategy—public interest met by release of Risk Management Policy
  • Request for file on alleged informant

    Case notes
    Request for file on alleged informant—Minister neither confirmed nor denied existence of information—any confirmation or denial that a person is or has been an informant for a law enforcement agency is likely to prejudice the interest protected by section 6(c)—appropriate for the Minister to neither confirm nor deny whether the file was in existence
  • Local Authority has no right to demand legal and court fees from non-paying customer

    Case notes
    Local Authority issued legal proceedings to recover unpaid mooring charges along with an account for ‘legal and court costs’—as the case had not been heard by a Court, the complainant claimed this was wrong—Ombudsman upheld the complaint, noting that a Local Authority cannot claim costs and legal fees (this being a matter for the Court to determine) and the Local Authority cannot list these on a person’s account as owing—the Local Authority changed its procedures regarding recovery of court costs
  • Local Authority not unreasonable to grant non-notified resource consent despite neighbour’s objections

    Case notes
    Local Authority granted non-notifiable resource consent for building extension where complainant claimed the structure would block his lake views. Council correctly applied s 94(2)(b) when it determined that no persons would be affected by the building because the adverse effect of the proposal on the environment was minor—allowing the proposal to proceed on a non-notified basis was not unreasonable
  • Council ameliorates non-notified development plan where neighbours adversely affected

    Case notes
    Local Authority did not notify application for subdivision consent but neighbours claimed they were affected by it and following Ombudsman’s inquiries, Council agreed to ameliorate offending features of development—the complaint was therefore resolved to complainants’ satisfaction
  • Non-notification under RMA not unreasonable, but Council should include community involvement in decision

    Case notes
    Non-notification of resource consent application allowed—Resource Management Act 1991, s 94
  • City Councillors can challenge Council’s decisions through Council’s Regulatory Committee, not Ombudsman

    Case notes
    Decision of Council not to notify application for resource consent—request by Councillor for review of decision—insufficient personal interest—Resource Management Act 1991, s 94—Ombudsmen Act 1975, s 17(1)(b)
  • District Council agrees to backdate effect of rate fee to when notice of ownership received

    Case notes
    Rating—uniform annual general charges levied on adjoining properties—local authority not notified that adjoining properties were occupied by same ratepayer—application for a refund on the basis that only a single uniform annual general charge was payable—Rating Powers Act 1988, ss 21(1) and 23.
  • Local Authority remedies misunderstanding with elderly vendor in property re-purchase agreement

    Case notes
    Valuation of property for re-purchase—reliance by Council on valuer’s expertise—Council did not disclose information about recent comparable sales—perceived threat to withdraw unilaterally from transaction—Council’s intention to offer vendor opportunity to seek release from contract—apology and ex gratia payment offered for misunderstanding
  • Local Authority revises time limits for oral submissions on draft annual plan

    Case notes
    Annual Plan—special consultative process—amount of time to be allowed for oral submissions—s 716A of the Local Government Act 1974
  • Local Authority agreed its processes were inadequate when it removed vehicle from public street

    Case notes
    Vehicle removed by Local Authority in street—car had no registration sticker, was removed in accordance with ss 356(2) and (5) of the Local Government Act 1974 and stripped and crushed at a local tip—complainant claimed unfair process and investigation indicated a dispute of facts between the two parties about the time the car had been parked—Ombudsman found Authority’s records of actions inadequate—due process not followed—Authority accepted opinion—agreed to compensate for loss of the vehicle, apologise and to improve clarity of guidelines and procedures for record keeping
  • Local Authority determines adverse effect for non-notified resource consent

    Case notes
    Non-notified resource consent application for consent to erect second storey to property—neighbour denied objection and appeal rights—interpretation of s 94 of the Resource Management Act 1991
  • Local Authority required to clarify ‘original ground level’ for purposes of resource consents under District Plans

    Case notes
    Points of reference for measurements for height dispensations—need for clarity in district plans