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  • Investigation of the Department of Corrections in relation to the detention and treatment 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. At the end of 2004 serious issues related to the treatment of prisoners came to public attention.
  • Request for Treasury costings of interest-free student loans policy

    Case notes
    Summary The Office of the Leader of the Opposition requested information about the Labour Party’s interest-free student loans policy in the run up to the 2005 general election.
  • Charge for supply of information about community grants

    Case notes
    Cannot charge for time required due to administrative inefficiencies or poor record-keeping—public interest in MPs having access to official information to assist in the reasonable exercise of their democratic responsibilities warranted 10 per cent remission.
  • Agreement by ACC to stop regular rehabilitation assessments in light of information it already holds

    Case notes
    Whether the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) was reasonable to carry out regular assessments of a claimant for vocational rehabilitation despite already holding medical and occupational assessments confirming the claimant’s limitations—Ombudsman concluded this was not reasonable in the circumstances
  • Request for Treasury reports

    Case notes
    Consultation and decision making not relevant for the purposes of establishing ‘substantial collation or research’
  • Request for report on suicide and the media

    Case notes
    Strong public interest in requester having access—participation in making of laws and policy— release on conditions
  • Request for father’s immigration file

    Case notes
    Private interests gave rise to a public interest—pursuing legal rights and remedies
  • Landcorp fails to monitor survey of land for sale

    Case notes
    Lessee of Crown land given opportunity to purchase it freehold in 1996 from Landcorp—a review of title revealed land had been surveyed to exclude all internal waterways used by lessee for his salmon and trout farms and problem discovered too late for exemptions under Conservation Act—the consequences of survey effectively confiscated farms and lessee complained to Ombudsman that Landcorp’s failure to monitor survey allowed issuance of title for an unviable property—Ombudsman reviewed circumstances and agreed Landcorp should have ensured it was informed of survey progress—its failure to monitor meant Landcorp could not take more effective measures to overcome title issues and land subsequently not fit for sale—view formed that Landcorp’s sale was unreasonable—Landcorp disagreed with view but agreed to make ex-gratia payment to complainant
  • Request for offender’s photo on police file

    Case notes
    Rape victim sought photograph of attacker whose face she had never seen—Police refused the request to protect the privacy of the offender—s 9(2)(a) applied—public interest in assisting victims of crime to recover from trauma and move on with their lives—balance of competing privacy and public interest considerations needed to be made—appropriate to make photograph available for viewing subject to appropriate conditions
  • Request for qualifications and work history of staff at Polytechnic Department

    Case notes
    Request for details about staff at Polytechnic—withheld under s 9(2)(a) to protect privacy—public interest in ensuring employment practices of Polytechnic are transparent and fair—met by summary release of staff details and selection process
  • Request for copy of competitor’s licence deed

    Case notes
    Ferry service operator requested copy of competitor’s licence deed from ferry terminal facility owner—request refused under s 7(2)(b)(ii) LGOIMA on basis release would prejudice commercial position of licensee—licensee argued that it had originally negotiated licence in atmosphere of complete commercial confidentiality with then port authority at a time when neither party was subject to LGOIMA—Ombudsman considered s 8 LGOIMA and s 75 Local Government Act 2002—neither Act contains transitional or saving provisions concerning information held by private bodies that later become subject to this legislation—request for such information should therefore be considered in same way as any other LGOIMA request—Ombudsman found no commercial prejudice likely and strong public interest in release—facility owner released information.
  • Request for names and email addresses of people consulted on draft speech

    Case notes
    Recipients and senders of emails consulted—disclosure would not inhibit senior public servants from expressing free and frank opinions in future—however others would be inhibited
  • Request for ACC notice board bulletin

    Case notes
    Requester sought a copy of ACC notice board bulletin - bulletin contains commentary and advice on various court decisions - prepared by practising solicitor in his professional capacity - purpose is to give general legal advice to case managers who routinely request and rely upon it - refused under s 9(2)(h) - legal professional privilege applies - no waiver even though it was distributed widely amongst ACC staff - marked confidential and subject to privilege - no public interest in release that outweighed strong public interest in ensuring privilege is maintained.
  • Delays by Te Puni Kōkiri in responding to requests from opposition researcher

    Case notes
    Blanket policy to consult Minister on all OIA requests unlawful—Ministerial ‘clearance’ or ‘approval’ of agency OIA requests not permitted
  • OIA request extension notified outside time limit

    Case notes
    Request for large amount of information relating to tobacco control—extension to time limit for responding to request required—extension notified outside time limit in s 15A—deemed a refusal—no further investigation required as decision on request pending
  • Request by mother for copy of letter she viewed at her son’s family group conference

    Case notes
    Mother requested copy of letter she viewed at her son’s family group conference—refused under s 18(c)(i) because all FGC matters are confidential—s 38 of Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1989—disclosing letter to person who attended FGC does not amount to ‘publishing’ as prohibited by s 38—letter released with proviso
  • Request for comments on early draft cabinet papers

    Case notes
    Request for documents regarding Kyoto Protocol—information contained initial Treasury comments on draft versions of cabinet paper—part of informal consultation early in policy making process—concern that release would result in officials being less co-operative and formalise the process—withholding necessary to maintain effective conduct of public affairs
  • Request for NZSIS files concerning two NZ scholars

    Case notes
    Writer sought NZSIS files on two individuals—Refused under s 6—bulk of information had been provided by overseas authorities under strict confidentiality agreements—various agencies consulted—some consented to release whereas others did not—complainant agreed to contact overseas agencies directly—ss 6(a) and 6(b) applied—release contrary to agreement would compromise quality and supply of similar information in future which would prejudice NZ’s security—some information released with identifiers deleted
  • Request by Korean company for information relating to Ministry of Defence decision not to shortlist the company

    Case notes
    Solicitors for Korean based company sought information on Ministry of Defence’s decision not to shortlist company in tender process—Ministry argued solicitors were agent for company which had no rights under the OIA—evidence suggested company had a place of business in New Zealand—s 12(1)(e) applied
  • Request for electronic copies of Ministers’ official diaries

    Case notes
    Request for electronic copies of certain Ministers’ official diaries covering a three month period—electronic copies of the diaries held only in a particular software package not available to the requester—no obligation, under the OIA, for Ministers to provide electronic copy of the diaries in another software package—technical and administrative difficulties in providing electronic copies of the diaries—s 16(2)(a) of the OIA provides grounds to refuse to provide electronic copies of the diaries
  • Request for printed copies of Ministers’ official diaries

    Case notes
    Request for printed copies of certain Ministers’ official diaries covering a three month period—printed copies of the diaries released with certain names and contact details deleted—a Minister’s diary per se is official information but not all the i
  • Request for ingredients of Foray 48B

    Case notes
    Releasing ingredients of pesticide used in aerial spraying operation would disclose a trade secret—public interest in disclosure finely balanced—s 9(2)(b)(i) provided good reason to withhold
  • Request for Crown Law opinion

    Case notes
    Request for Crown Law opinion that Creative NZ referred to in correspondence—withheld under s 9(2)(h)—legal professional privilege attached to information—whether partial disclosure of contents of opinion sufficient to constitute waiver—s 9(2)(h) applied
  • Request for land exchange agreement and valuations

    Case notes
    NZDF exchanging land with private land owners under the Public Works Act 1981—OIA request made to NZDF for copies of the exchange agreement and valuations of respective properties—NZDF refused under s 9(2)(i)—Ombudsman noted majority of information in standard form and already publicly available—unable to identify ‘commercial activity’—rather transaction was for defence purposes within the terms of the Public Works Act—NZDF released the information subject to the withholding of some information under s 9(2)(j) and s 9(2)(b)(ii)
  • Request for tape recording of Council Committee deliberations

    Case notes
    Property owner sought tape recording of Council Committee deliberations (public excluded) on his application for a resource consent—withheld under s 7(2)(f)(i)—basis for public exclusion invalid but withholding grounds still available to Council—information on tape recording consisted of free and frank expression of opinions which, if released, would harm ‘the effective conduct of public affairs’ by hampering, delaying or preventing future resource consent processes—no countervailing public interest considerations favouring release that would outweigh the need to protect information
  • Request for information relating to an investigation into alleged destruction of documents held by NZDF

    Case notes
    Request for information relating to an investigation into alleged destruction of documents held by New Zealand Defence Force—information withheld to prevent prejudice to the outcome of those inquiries—s 6(c) applied at the time the request was refused—information later released due to change in circumstances
  • Tertiary Council appointments process controlled by Council

    Case notes
    Nomination for appointment to Tertiary Council pursuant to s 171(2)(f)(ii) Education Act 1989 required workers’ organisation to be consulted—Council refused to appoint organisation’s sole nominee and sought further nominations from organisation—appointment process stalled—alleged unreasonable failure by Council to consult—Ombudsman held consultation confers no rights on an organisation and that Council controlled appointments process
  • Department of Corrections required to state reasons for security classification

    Case notes
    Prison inmate complained that his security classification had been unreasonably assessed and Ombudsman concluded the Department failed to provide ‘strong reasons’ (which must be stated)—Ombudsman found the Prison officers had based their classification on uncorroborated, unrecorded, verbal statement made by another inmate—Ombudsman upheld complaint based on inequitable situation that would result if prison relied solely on this information, however, the inmate released before any recommendation could be made
  • Board of Trustees fails to follow principles of natural justice at disciplinary hearing for expelled student

    Case notes
    Student excluded after initially caught hiding stolen property—at the disciplinary hearing the exclusion decision not based on this incident due to lack of evidence but on history of misdemeanours—parents complained that due process had not been followed in disciplinary process—Ombudsman found that at the disciplinary hearing by school the student had no reasonable indication that the student would be answering to an allegation of continual disobedience—complaint about Board of Trustees’ process sustained and Ombudsman recommended apology, reinstatement of student, and removal of exclusion from student’s records—the Board refused to act on recommendations although the student reinstated for other reasons
  • Department of Corrections revises guidelines on implications for visitors possessing drugs

    Case notes
    Prison banned inmate’s family members from visiting for 12-months after small amount of cannabis found in their possession—the inmate complained that the duration of ban was unreasonable but the Department of Corrections noted it had zero tolerance policy for drugs with an automatic 12-month prohibition order to be placed on anyone found with them on prison property—Ombudsman concluded blanket ban unreasonable and the Department agreed each case to be considered on merits and prepared guidelines for prisons—Ombudsman advised inmate to apply for a review of prohibition order under the new guidelines
  • ACC has responsibility to meet statutory obligations despite uncooperative claimant

    Case notes
    Refusal to compensate for alleged ‘wrongful action’ – independent review of case incomplete because of complainant’s behaviour—treatment and rehabilitation compromised by stand-off between claimant and Corporation—complaints sustained and recommendations made but rejected by Corporation—Accident Insurance Act 1998
  • Local Authority cannot call ‘workshop’ a meeting for purposes of LGOIMA

    Case notes
    Council Workshop—decisions not formally made—requirements of the Act cannot be avoided by calling a meeting a workshop—Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987, s 45(1)