Ombudsman: QLDC fails to comply with Official Information legislation

Sep 18, 2023

A senior investigator working for the Chief Ombudsman has ordered a report from QLDC CEO Mike Theelen on the council’s failure to comply with official information legislation.

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has told both CEO Theelen and mayor Glyn Lewers that there has been “ a failure to meet the requirements imposed under the LGOIMA (Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act).”

The action follows a complaint from BusinessDesk that QLDC wrongly withheld information relating to the granting of Queenstown and Wānaka holiday park management rights to an Australian company. The council refused to reveal details of the commercial arrangement saying it was commercially sensitive.

But the Office of the Ombudsman has agreed with BusinessDesk that it is in the public interest to know details of the deal even though QLDC argued that there was not “any public interest in releasing any commercial details of contractors/operators engaging with the council”.

Senior Investigator Rebecca Soper told BusinessDesk that there was public interest in the council’s commercial relationship given that the holiday park sites were publicly owned but being managed by an offshore entity. She has asked CEO Theelen to explain the council’s behaviour and release not only relevant information but the reasons for the decision to withhold information.

The Chief Ombudsman has also asked Mr Theelen to detail improvements in the way official information requests are handled.

In an unusual move QLDC’s acting general manager of corporate affairs Naell Crosby-Roe has apologised to BusinessDesk saying that the council received around 200 official information requests every year and “more than 98% are in accordance with the timelines of LGOIMA” – a reference to the fact that QLDC's response to BusinessDesk was outside the required 20 working days allowed for a reply.

Crux has a large number of complaints with the Office of the Ombudsman regarding QLDC’s handling of LGOIMA requests with investigator Charlotte Leggett saying on Friday (September 15) that she expects an update within the next one to two weeks.

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