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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 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.
  • Administrative error resulting in lost opportunity for ACC claim

    Case notes
    A patient who was unaware he had asbestosis underwent a CT scan while being treated at a DHB Hospital. On the scan’s accompanying notes a radiologist noted previous asbestos exposure. This CT scan with accompanying notes was misfiled, for unknown reasons, and the patient’s diagnosis of asbestosis was not confirmed until autopsy.
  • 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.
  • Ministry of Health unreasonably disallowed visiting Australian resident access to publicly funded health services

    Case notes
    Whether the Ministry of Health was unreasonable to determine that medical treatment obtained by a visitor to New Zealand was not ‘immediately necessary’ and therefore not covered by reciprocal health agreement with Australia – Ombudsman considered the Ministry of Health erred – complaint sustained
  • 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
  • Request for statistics on allegations of assault by Corrections staff

    Case notes
    Requirements of Operations Manual meant source information to answer request should be held—manual compilation is not creation—s 18(g) does not apply—unreasonable to rely on s 18(f) when the fundamental difficulty in providing the information was down to the Department’s own administrative lapses
  • 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
  • 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 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
  • 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
  • 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)
  • Councils required to add to LIM matters on neighbouring property if relevant

    Case notes
    Purchaser requested LIM from Council on property he was considering buying—LIM received and property purchased—after purchaser gained possession he discovered neighbour had building consent to drain storm water into his drain—building consent not referred to in LIM report—purchaser sought removal of drain and records about drain, and reimbursement of legal costs—Council advised its practice was to note consents only on applicant’s file - Ombudsman held Council’s actions unreasonable—Council agreed to pay compensation
  • Failure by health funding body to honour undertaking by predecessor funding body to fund gender reassignment surgery unreasonable

    Case notes
    The Health Funding Authority (disestablished in 2001) was required to consider a complaint against its predecessor (Regional Health Authority) about an agreement by RHA to fund gender reassignment surgery—the RHA had initially agreed to fund this surgery but then changed its policy—the Ombudsman concluded that it was unreasonable for the RHA not to honour this undertaking on the basis of a subsequent change in policy and that its successor, the HFA should remedy the unreasonable actions of its predecessor—the HFA agreed with the Ombudsman’s recommendations to fund the gender reassignment surgery in the manner originally approved—as the HFA was by this time disestablished the matter was passed to the Ministry of Health for completion
  • Council should pay for cost of obtaining second legal opinion on straightforward matter raised by complainant

    Case notes
    Property owner disagreed with Council that resource consent was necessary for building house—Council sought external legal advice and billed property owner who refused to pay—Council went to Disputes Tribunal which ordered property owner to pay all legal fees and court costs—property owner complained to Ombudsman who considered legislation and found it to be unambiguous that both the operative and proposed district plans must be complied with—Council agreed issue was straightforward and was aware of legislation and relevant case law—Ombudsman did not consider it necessary for further advice to be obtained on issue—view formed that it was appropriate for Council to exercise discretion under s36(5) of Resource Management Act 1991 and remit charge—in circumstances, Ombudsman also considered it unreasonable for Council not to remit Court and solicitor’s costs payable pursuant to Disputes Tribunal order—recommended all costs be remitted
  • Medical Practitioners’ Disciplinary Tribunal outside Ombudsman’s jurisdiction

    Case notes
    Complaint about Medical Practitioners’ Disciplinary Tribunal decision to strike off a doctor and media coverage of the hearing—no jurisdiction to investigate—Ombudsman has discretion to investigate matters of administration with respect to the Health and Disability Commissioner’s investigation into the doctor’s medical practices but only if complainant has sufficient interest in the subject-matter of complaint and consent from the doctor
  • 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