19 June 2007

OIA grumbles

Last week, I made the following OTA request:
Kia ora I am an academic with a particular interest in local democracy and sub-national bodies and am presently undertaking some work on Codes of Conduct. I would be grateful therefore if you could provide me with the following information relating to the code of conduct issues in relation to Mr Solomon: - a copy of your code of conduct; - reports to the DHB on these issues; - minutes of the meetings at which these issues were considered. I would also be grateful if you could treat this request as urgent – obviously it is a contemporary issue of some public importance. thanks Dean Knight Lecturer, Faculty of LawVictoria University of Wellington, Government Buildings, 15 Lambton Quay, PO Box 600, Wellington, New Zealand[ tel +64 (4) 463 6364 ] [ fax +64 (4) 463 6365 ] [ mob +64 (21) 684 544 ] [ dean.knight@vuw.ac.nz ] [ www.vuw.ac.nz/law ]
Subsequently I received the following response:

3. A couple of thoughts:

- Um, since when has the OIA not been a "core duty"? Surely, public transparency is a fundamental part of a public bodies' functions?

- The documents I requested are, essentially, official documents from Board meetings (reports and agenda). Surely these are readily available? And within the "free" 1 hour?

- Yes, I made the request and so I do really want the documents! I'd prefer not to have to re-confirm my intentions. But, if I do, who do I contact to confirm the request - the CEO? Maybe it would be helpful to have a nominated person to contact, and perhaps even their email address?

- Oh... yes, "the 20-day working deadline"? Actually, your primary obligation is to satisfy the request "as soon as reasonably practicable". But I suspect you won't start the clock until I re-confirm my request?

- In any event, my request was noted as urgent? Maybe it would be nice if it would be treated as such?!?


1 comment:

Graeme Edgeler said...

Since when was the OIA not a core duty? When it was ommitted from the objectives (s 22) and functions (s 23) of DHB's in the New Zealand Public Health and Disabilities Act 2000?


And to be fair, the way it's written, with their desire for urgency in your response, they actually want to get you the information in 20 days from your initial request (we haven't started yet, but the only way we'll meet the 20 day "deadline" is if you let us know urgently whether you're happy to pay - implying that if you're slow in getting back to them, most of the 20 days will have gone, and they might not meet the target).

Course Outline

Lord Justice Lawton in Maxwell v Department of Trade and Industry [1974] 2 All ER 122 said:

"From time to time ... lawyers and judges have tried to define what constitutes fairness. Like defining an elephant, it is not easy to do, although fairness in practice has the elephantine quality of being easy to recognise. As a result of these efforts a word in common usage has acquired the trappings of legalism: 'acting fairly' has become 'acting in accordance with the rules of natural justice', and on occasion has been dressed up with Latin tags. This phrase in my opinion serves no useful purpose and in recent years it has encouraged lawyers to try to put those who hold inquiries into legal straitjackets.... For the purposes of my judgment I intend to ask myself this simple question: did the [decision-maker] act fairly towards the plaintiff?"

This course examines the elephantine concept of fairness in the law, along with other contemporary legal issues.

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