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The Ombudsmen Part II

December 1, 2008

In early November I filed a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsmen regarding the replies received from Napier City and Ruapehu District councils in response to my request for a spreadsheet of the trading name and address of premises issued Environmental Health licenses in the region. See the Councils Project page on our wiki for the background and status of this project.

Both councils refused the request citing the Privacy Act. Seems to me that local goverment is citing the Privacy Act as some sort of panacea for requests that might make them do some work. Seems the Ombudsman agrees with me too! The letter received today states:

I have today notified your complaints to both councils, and advised them as follows:

The first point I would note with regard to Mr Webster’s request is that it concerns information pertaining to commercial entities rather than individuals. The significance of this is that the Privacy Act is not applicable, since it only protects the privacy rights of “natural persons”, that is to say, private individuals. Mr Webster’s request therefore falls to be considered under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) alone.

In light of the above, the Council may wish to reconsider Mr Websters request. Should it be decided that the information can be released, would you please advise that this has been done. Alternatively, should the Council remain of the view that good reason existed for refusing the request on any of the grounds available under LGOIMA, please forward a sample of the information at issue, together with a letter stating which withholding grounds are considered to be applicatable, and the reasons for that decision. (Ombudsman) Mr McGee would then consider the matter further.

I sure can’t see anything remotely appropiate within the reasons for withholding official information in LGOIMA. so we’ll wait 21 days for the councils to respond (wouldn’t expect them to exceed legislated requirements) and see what happens.

PS. I have no idea who Mr Webster is. Either the Ombudsmen have changed my name to protect the innocent or they’re so inundated with requests that they used a template and neglected to update my details, sigh…

[Edit: I got another letter from the Ombudsmen apologising for their mistake of referring to me as Mr Webster. Maybe they read the blog… ;)]

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2 Comments
  1. Maurice Winn permalink
    December 1, 2008 3:32 pm

    Regarding reviews of businesses, perhaps a simpler and less problematic way of reviewing businesses would be a rating of 0 to 10. That way it couldn’t be considered libelous to rate something at zero [being no good] and if some business gets swarms of ratings at 8 rather than 3, perhaps with some statistical analysis to show consistency of the business experience. For example a business with all 7s might be better than one with lots of 8, 9, 10 but quite a lot down around 0, 1, 2.

  2. December 1, 2008 11:31 pm

    In England Ombudsmen are obliged to use pseudonyms for complainants names in any public report or any document that may be published. As many countries modelled their Ombudsmen on the English system I would imagine that’s why you have been referred to as Mr Webster. However, if your Ombudsmen are as bad as ours it could just as well have been a mistake.

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