web analytics

Court’s decision on TPP OIA has both Nats and Ombudsman squirming

Written By: - Date published: 10:44 am, October 15th, 2015 - 23 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, accountability, law - Tags: , , , , , , ,

As recently covered here, the High Court has upheld Jane Kelsey’s application for a declaration that the Government and Tim Groser improperly considered her application for information concerning the TPPA negotiations.

The Nats aren’t happy:

Govt considers TPP OIA appeal

The government is considering whether to appeal against a court decision finding Trade Minister Tim Groser acted unlawfully in the way he rejected requests for information about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

Green Party MP Russel Norman said he hoped the court decision would mean an end to the National-led government’s abuse of the OIA.

“John Key’s statement suggests that the ministers in his government routinely are in breach of the Official Information Act.

“Really that’s no surprise when the Prime Minister himself advised public servants and ministers to routinely break the act when he said ‘we delay stuff as long as we can’ when the act is absolutely clear that the government should release information as soon as possible.”

The Ombudsman isn’t happy either – how’s this for defensive:

Chief Ombudsman’s statement on High Court TPPA Decision

The High Court’s decision released today requiring the Minister of Trade to reconsider his decision relating to Professor Jane Kelsey’s request for information about the TPPA relates only to the decision making process followed by the Minister.

Any suggestion that the Court passed judgement on the merits of the Chief Ombudsman’s decision is incorrect.

Mmmmmkay.

Both Nats and Ombudsman would be well advised to take three deep breaths, and read this typically excellent piece by Prof. Andrew Geddis:

Comes the rule with no exception

Jane Kelsey’s court victory over the evil MFAT/Tim Groser empire is probably too little, too late for her campaign against the TPPA. But it sends some important messages to a range of public actors in New Zealand’s governing arrangements.

The problem with this [Groser’s] approach is that it runs completely counter to the OIA’s basic purpose – to make any and all information available unless one of the specific reasons in the legislation applies. For the information holder to decide that it won’t provide information without actually looking at it and considering if there is a valid statutory reason for refusing its release inverts the way the OIA is supposed to work.

Furthermore, the OIA has provisions within it to deal with requests for large amounts of information. If it would take a long time to go through the material and decide on its release, the agency holding the information can extend the time limits contained in the OIA. And if it would be very costly to comply with the request, then a “reasonable” charge can be levied for doing so.

However, MFAT/Tim Groser didn’t give any consideration to these options before issuing their blanket refusal. Which means that they didn’t comply with what the legislation requires, making the decision unlawful. And so Justice Collins told them to go away and make the decision again, this time after doing what the OIA says. …

That’s pretty definitive. And just for the Ombudsman:

The third audience for this judgment is the Ombudsman’s office, and the Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem in particular. Because it is fair to say that she does not come out of the judgment all that well. Not only does Justice Collins find that she apparently misunderstands how a quite key legal test under the OIA is meant to apply (at para. [139]), but her failure to pick up MFAT/Tim Groser’s ignoring of proper process is quite concerning.

After all, the Ombudsman is meant to be the primary check on those who hold official information failing to abide by their legal obligations. If that office is not noticing those failures – if it is basically waving through decisions that fail to comply with the OIA – then what is a citizen to do?

Prof. Jane Kelsey showed us one option a citizen can pursue – the courts. But not everyone has the skills, resources and determination to do it. Better that the system just works as it should – as the High Court has just reminded those in power.

23 comments on “Court’s decision on TPP OIA has both Nats and Ombudsman squirming”

  1. dukeofurl 1

    Who will rid me of this turbulent OIA priest ?

    Cant see to find the Ombusman office decision online which declined to back Kelsey up.

  2. To these modern day politicians, the process of democracy is just a nuisance.

    This shows how easy it would be for a country to slip into a dictatorship if the correct procedures are not followed.

    Thank goodness for the likes of Prof Jane Kelsey.

  3. Tracey 3

    This is an example of where the appointment of the Ombudsmen is VERY important. Oversight of the Ombudsmen is crucial and so is RESOURCING of the office. If you are not a professor of law or a wealthy person you have to sit back and watch months (and sometimes years) pass before the O’s office can get to you. Government departments know this and, in my experience, abuse it by defaulting to refusal knowing how long followup will take.

    Nats will appeal so it goes beyond the 30 days when all information of the agreement will be released BUT something tells me they dont want their cost/benefit analysis released until they absolutely have to. Which is odd given how sure they are the deal is “good” for NZ

  4. Tracey 4

    This was a judicial review type process. The Court, as far as I can tell, has not said Groser should have released the information, it has said he and his office wilfully ignored the proper process to following in reaching the decision to not release. Hence it is sent back to be decided by following the correct process.

    No need to appeal surely, just go through the correct process this time and your original decision will be justified, right Timmy?

  5. With the help of https://www.fyi.org.nz I have filed a request for information from Mr Groser regarding the effects of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement on New Zealanders human rights and our obligations in this regard overseas. I got a nice long detailed answer that did everything BUT answer my questions.

    Trying again. Complaining to the Ombudsman is on the cards if this does not work out.

    • Ilicit 6.1

      Good luck, seems the government finds all sorts of spin (on any subject) instead of a proper response.

      And given the irresponsibility of the OIA Ombudsman, a political appointee, I don’t hold high hopes for your challenge.

    • Mike the Savage One 6.2

      I would not pin that much hope in the present Ombudsman, she is also going to be replaced soon, her age is well over the age an Ombudsman is meant to have while serving, she must retire a.s.a.p..

      • Tracey 6.2.1

        ALL Ombudsmen have been hamstrung by a pitiful lack of resources arising from a cynical use of the system/process by Departments of our Government and their bosses.

  6. Mike the Savage One 7

    Yep, both Ombudsmen we have are not that great at all, despite of the odd decisions that some have celebrated in the past. Ron Paterson seems to be rather soft on medical practitioners and also some state agencies when it comes to complaints about these, OIA related or otherwise. Beverley Wakem has made some appalling decisions, as I can gather, having read a few. She seems to be letting government agencies off too often, giving them more credit than any genuine complainant.

    It is time for a real shake-up in this area.

    If the government wants to appeal the court decision, then we can interpret this as a further attempt to cover up their breaches of the spirit and the law of the OIA.

  7. Tory 8

    “Little takes the ball, he dribbles through the opposition like they were not there, his speed and timing are amazing to watch. He approaches the goal and shoots, it’s a ripper and the crowd roars!, right into the far right of the net, goal keeper Kelsey was powerless to stop that shot. Suddenly the crowd goes quiet, bigger, an own goal…”

  8. KJT 9

    I await with breathless anticipation police charges for breaking the law.
    Or any admission of personal responsibility, from, the party of “personal responsibility”.

    • The lost sheep 9.1

      You will wait a long time KJT, as no one can be charged with ‘breaking the law’ under the OIA, nor are there any sanctions for failing to comply with it – apart from the requirement to go back and have another crack at doing it properly.

      • McFlock 9.1.1

        and, of course, the government’s complete lack of integrity and their constant refusal to take personal responsibility for their incompetence.

      • tracey 9.1.2

        True enough

        but

        note something the Judge said…

        The Act (OIA)
        ‘plays a significant role in New Zealand’s constitutional and democratic arrangements. It is essential the Act’s meaning and purpose is fully honoured by those required to consider the release of official information… The orders I have made reinforce to the Minister and other decision-makers the importance of discharging their responsibilities under the Act and promote future compliance’.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 9.1.2.1

          What are the sanctions available to the courts if Groser (or some other compromised trougher) embodies everything the National Party represents by continuing down his illegal path?

      • Craig H 9.1.3

        True, but the law can be enforced by a court order, and if that’s not complied with, Contempt of Court is on the table.

  9. KJT 10

    Pity. Responsibility obviously does not apply in Government.

  10. KJT 11

    If we could hold politicians to the same professional standard as builders, for example, we could charge them with serial child abuse for the 300 000 children they have neglected.

    • Draco T Bastard 11.1

      Considering that this governments policies have likely resulted in increased suicide we should probably be charging them with murder. Life sentences for the entire government.

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • New Zealand expresses condolences on passing of Vanuatu High Commissioner
    Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters today extended New Zealand’s condolences following the death of Vanuatu’s High Commissioner to New Zealand, Johnson Naviti, who passed away yesterday afternoon in Wellington. “Our thoughts are with the High Commissioner’s family and colleagues during this difficult time. This is a terrible loss both to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    15 hours ago
  • Government announces allocation of three waters funds for councils
    The Government has today set out the regional allocations of the $761 million Three Waters stimulus and reform funding for councils announced by Prime Minister Hon Jacinda Ardern this month.  "I want to thank Councils around the country for engaging with the Central Local Government Steering Group who have been ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    16 hours ago
  • Funding boost for students with highest learning support needs
    Students with high and complex learning needs, as well as their teachers and parents, will benefit from a substantial increase to Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funding, Associate Education Minister Martin announced today. “Nearly $160 million will go towards helping these students by lifting their base support over the next four ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    17 hours ago
  • Govt connecting kiwis to affordable, healthy food
    Funding for innovative projects to connect Kiwis with affordable, safe and wholesome food, reduce food waste, and help our food producers recover from COVID-19 has been announced today by Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor. “COVID-19 has seen an increasing number of families facing unprecedented financial pressure. Foodbanks and community food service ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    18 hours ago
  • Getting infrastructure for housing underway
    Eight shovel-ready projects within Kāinga Ora large-scale developments, and the Unitec residential development in Auckland have been given the go-ahead, Minister for Housing Dr Megan Woods announced today. Megan Woods says these significant infrastructure upgrades will ensure that the provision of homes in Auckland can continue apace. “The funding announced ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    19 hours ago
  • Napier walk and cycleway to improve safety
    The Government is funding a new separated walking and cycleway path along Napier’s Chambers and Ellison streets to provide safer access for local students and residents across Marine Parade and State Highway 51, Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Police Minister Stuart Nash announced today. Funding of $2.7 million has been ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    22 hours ago
  • PGF creates more than 10k jobs, success stories across NZ
    More than 13,000 people have been employed so far thanks to the Coalition Government’s Provincial Growth Fund, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has today announced. The number of jobs created by Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) investments has outstripped the 10,000 jobs target that the Government and Provincial Development Unit ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • Inaugural seafood awards honour sustainability
    Scientists and innovative fishing operators from Stewart Island and Fiordland to Nelson, Marlborough and Wellington have been honoured in the first ever Seafood Sustainability Awards. Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash has congratulated the winners of the inaugural Seafood Sustainability Awards held at Parliament. “The awards night honours six winners, from a wide ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • Climate resilience packages for regions
    The Government is providing an investment totalling more than $100 million for regions to protect against and mitigate the effects of climate change, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones have announced. Six regions will receive funding from the $3 billion allocated to infrastructure projects from the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Southern Waikato shovel ready projects get the green light
    Three major local projects at Te Kuiti and Otorohanga have been given the money to get moving after the impact of Covid 19, says the Minister of Māori Development Hon Nanaia Mahuta.  The projects range from a Sports Centre for Te Kuiti, a redevelopment of the Otorohanga  Kiwi House and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • New Zealand extends Middle East and Africa peace support deployments
    The Coalition Government has extended three New Zealand Defence Force deployments to the Middle East and Africa by two years, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters and Defence Minister Ron Mark announced today.  “These deployments promote peace in the Middle East and Africa by protecting civilians and countering the spread of ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Govt progress on climate change essential, risk assessment shows
    The release of the National Climate Change Risk Assessment shows that the progress this Government has made to solve the climate crisis is essential to creating cleaner and safer communities across New Zealand. “Because of this report, we can see clearer than ever that the action our Government is taking ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • $10m sport recovery fund open for applications
    The second round of the Community Resilience Fund is now open for applications for sport and recreation organisations experiencing financial hardship between 1 July and 30 September 2020. “The fund opens today for five weeks – closing on September 6. The amount awarded will be decided on a case-by-case basis ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Rakitū Island declared latest predator free island
    Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage today declared Rakitū Island, off the coast of Aotea/Great Barrier Island, predator free. “I’m delighted to announce that with rats now gone, Rakitū is officially predator free. This is a major milestone because Rakitū is the last DOC administered island in the Hauraki Gulf Marine ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Funding to restore significant Māori sites in the Far North
    The Provincial Growth Fund is investing $8.75 million to restore significant historic sites at Ōhaeawai in the Far North, upgrade marae and fund fencing and riparian planting. Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones made the announcements following a service at the historic St Michael’s Anglican Church at Ōhaeawai today.  Just ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Big boost for Chatham Islands’ economy
    The Chatham Islands will receive close to $40 million for projects that will improve its infrastructure, add to its attraction as a visitor destination, and create jobs through a planned aquaculture venture, Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones has announced. “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the islands, first ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • More initiatives to reduce energy hardship
    The Government is delivering more initiatives to reduce energy hardship and to give small electricity consumers a voice, Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods said today. “In addition to the initiatives we have already delivered to support New Zealand families, we are responding to the Electricity Price Review with further ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Turning the tide for hoiho/yellow-eyed penguin
    Government, iwi, NGOs and rehabilitation groups are working together to turn around the fortunes of the nationally endangered hoiho/yellow-eyed penguin following a series of terrible breeding seasons.  The Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage helped launch the Five Year Action Plan at the annual Yellow-Eyed Penguin symposium in Dunedin today. “I ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Taskforce ready to tackle tourism challenges
    The membership of the Tourism Futures Taskforce has now been confirmed, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis announced at an event at Whakarewarewa in Rotorua today. “The main purpose of the independent Tourism Futures Taskforce is to lead the thinking on the future of tourism in New Zealand,” Kelvin Davis said. Joining ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Investing in the tourism sector’s recovery
    More than $300 million in funding has been approved to protect strategic tourism businesses, drive domestic tourism through regional events and lift digital capability in the tourism industry, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis announced today. A $400 million Tourism Recovery Package was announced at Budget 2020, and with today’s announcements is ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Permits to be required for exporting hard-to-recycle plastic waste
    From 2021 permits will be required for New Zealanders wanting to export hard-to-recycle plastic waste. The Associate Minister for the Environment, Eugenie Sage, today announced the requirements as part of New Zealand’s commitments to the Basel Convention, an international agreement of more than 180 countries which was amended in May ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Growth in new building consents shows demand is still high
    The building and construction sector is still showing strong growth, with the number of new dwellings consented up more than 8 per cent compared to last year, reflecting a welcome confidence in the Government’s COVID-19 response package, Minister for Building and Construction Jenny Salesa says. “While it is still too ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • $23 million for Bay of Plenty flood protection
    Government investment of $23 million for Bay of Plenty flood protection will allow local communities to address long-standing flood risks and provide jobs, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau announced in Rotorua today. These projects are being funded by the Infrastructure Reference Group’s (IRG) shovel ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Rotorua benefits from over $62 million boost
    Investment for projects that will create hundreds of jobs in Rotorua were announced today by Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau. These projects will provide opportunities for economic development in a region that has been hard hit by COVID-19,” Winston Peters said. Fletcher ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Increased counselling support for all students
    For the first time, primary schools will have access to funding for counsellors for their students, Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin announced today. “A major investment of $75.8 million will provide greater access to guidance counsellors to help primary and secondary school students deal with mental health and wellbeing issues,” ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Report of the Government Inquiry into Operation Burnham released
    Defence Minister Ron Mark today welcomed the release of the Report of the Government Inquiry into Operation Burnham and related matters, and the Government response.  “I thank the Inquiry for their thorough and detailed report, on a highly complex issue. I accept the recommendations of the report, and fully support ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • 1BT funds create jobs and lasting benefits
    Forestry Minister Shane Jones has announced $6 million of One Billion Trees funding for seven regional initiatives to create jobs and provide long-lasting environmental and economic benefits. The projects range from improving one of the poorest-quality water catchments in Otago to restoring 52km of waterways around Hokianga Harbour. Six of the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Kawerau projects to receive $5.5 million from Provincial Growth Fund
    Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters today announced $5.5 million in funding from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) for two Kawerau projects and says this is a significant boost for the people of Kawerau. “These projects will bring much-needed investment and will create up to 60 jobs for locals,” Mr Peters ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • $5 million for Kaingaroa Village Redevelopment
    Kaingaroa Village in the Bay of Plenty is to get $5 million to help fund a comprehensive upgrade of its infrastructure, facilities and housing, Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau announced today. Mr Tabuteau travelled to the remote village to make the announcement, telling Kaingaroa residents how the funding ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • $18 Million Funding Boost for Bay of Plenty Business Park
    The Rangiuru Business Park project near Te Puke is getting $18 million from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau announced today. “This is all about unlocking the potential of this region. When it’s finished, the Rangiuru Business Park will be the Bay of Plenty’s ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Town revitalisation and aquaculture investments create jobs in Ōpōtiki
    Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has today announced that a $26 million investment in Ōpōtiki will see important public amenities upgraded and further progress made on new aquaculture opportunities. “The people of Ōpōtiki have been waiting decades for real investment in key infrastructure, and support for the incredible aquaculture opportunities ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Minister congratulates the Cook Islands community for its 9th year of Language Weeks
    The Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio wishes to congratulate the Cook Islands community throughout Aotearoa for the 9th year of Te ‘Epetoma o Te Reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani, the Cook Islands Language Week.  “This is a proud milestone that reflects on the huge effort made by the Cook ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Construction underway on longest section of Glen Innes to Tāmaki Drive Shared Path
    Aucklanders in the Eastern Suburbs will soon have more ways to get around, with Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter kicking off construction on Section 2 of Te Ara Ki Uta Ki Tai, the Glen Innes to Tāmaki Drive Shared Path today. The Glen Innes ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • 350,000 More Measles Vaccines for Massive Immunisation Campaign
    The Government is stepping up the fight against measles and protecting hundreds of thousands more young adults by investing up to $40 million for a year-long measles-catch-up campaign and $23 million to fully fund and develop the National Immunisation Solution, Associate Minister of Health Julie Anne Genter announced at Mangere ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Operation Burnham report released
    Attorney-General David Parker has today released the findings of the Government inquiry held into Operation Burnham and related events. The operation took place on 21-22 August 2010 in Tirgiran Valley, Afghanistan, and was carried out by NZSAS troops and other nations’ forces operating as part of the International Security Assistance ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Locally-led solutions at centre of new community resilience fund
    From tomorrow, community groups around New Zealand can apply to a $36 million fund established to encourage locally-led solutions as communities rebuild and recover from COVID-19, announced Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni and Minister for Community and Voluntary Sector Poto Williams. “The Community Capability and Resilience Fund (CCRF) builds ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Securing healthy futures for all Māori
    The Government has committed to improving Māori health and wellbeing over the next five years. The Associate Minister of Health (Māori Health) today released Whakamaua: Māori Health Action Plan 2020-2025 which sets the pathway towards achieving healthy futures for all Māori. “As kaitiaki of the system, the Ministry of Health ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Porirua Development delivers more new public housing
    The first of nearly 70 new state homes have been opened in Cannons Creek, Porirua by the Associate Minister of Housing, Kris Faafoi, as part of an increase in public housing being delivered through the Porirua Development.  “Completion of the first 10 of 53 new two and five bedroom homes ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • New standards for existing marine farms provide consistency
    New environmental standards will make the re-consenting of existing marine farms more consistent across the country.  The new regulations for the National Environmental Standards for Marine Aquaculture (NES-MA) will come into effect on 1 December, Environment Minister David Parker and Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash said.   “The NES-MA removes complexities and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Government signs Accord reinvigorating commitment to Far North iwi
    Today marks a milestone as the Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni and Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta co-sign an Addendum – with the Iwi Chairs of Te Rarawa, Ngāi Takoto and Te Aupōuri – to the Te Hiku o Te Ika Iwi-Crown Social Development and Wellbeing Accord (the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago