Council flooded with information requests

Gore District Council staff have been dealing with a ‘‘tsunami’’ of Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) requests.
The Act allows people to request official information held by local government agencies that is not available in the public arena.
The council’s audit and risk committee considered the issue at its meeting last week.
Communications and customer support general manager Sonia Gerken tabled a report at the meeting.
There had been a ‘‘significant spike’’ in LGOIMA requests for the last two months, Mrs Gerken said in the report.
‘‘These have put pressure on resources and required the council to advise a number of requesters of time extensions beyond the 20-day statutory time frame.’’
The ‘‘tsunami’’ of requests was related to the issues the council had been facing since Christmas, she said.
It was possible to charge for the supply of information but charges had to be reasonable and take into account the cost of the labour and materials involved.
Council’s services were free for the first hour and $80 thereafter.
To promote transparency, it had been decided to publish all LGOIMA requests and the reply on the council website.
During the discussion, Gore District Mayor Ben Bell asked if a person made a request ‘‘fishing’’ for information, would that not increase public scrutiny if the results were published.
Mrs Gerken said it was important to remember the Act was based on the principle of transparency.
Sometimes when time and effort went into providing information, what was seen in the public arena was not ‘‘a true reflection of what’s provided’’.
It would save staff time because if similar requests were made, people could be directed to the website, she said.
The names of individuals who made requests would not be posted on the website but organisations, including the names of media outlets, would.
The council was not charging people for information at present.
Councillor Bronwyn Reid suggested if the same person made repeated requests for information they could be charged.
While the figures were not all in for June, so far for May and June there had been 37 requests compared with 15 from January to May.