Two of Dunedin's city councillors are helping flood Dunedin
City Council staff with official information requests, as a
third councillor questions the cost of providing so many
Figures released to the Otago Daily Times yesterday showed
the council has received 278 official information requests
since July 1 last year, more than in previous years.
The requests included 34 sent by the city's elected members,
most of which had come from Crs Hilary Calvert and Lee
Vandervis, it was confirmed.
The cost of processing requests prompted concern from Cr
David Benson-Pope, who asked for more detailed information
about the size of the bill at this week's finance committee
However, Cr Calvert told the ODT she was ''unrepentant''
about asking questions, ''and I won't be stopping''.
Instead, she fired a shot at Cr Benson-Pope, claiming he had
access to answers - as a committee chairman - in ways some
other councillors might not enjoy.
''I consider it my job on behalf of the ratepayers to make
decisions based on good information.
''It's a wee bit rich for somebody who can get answers
differently, potentially, because they are being briefed in a
different fashion, to criticise other people,'' she said.
Asked why she needed to seek answers through official
information requests, Cr Calvert said some information was
not as available as it should be, or ''I would not have
needed to ask''.
''I shouldn't have had to play a game of 20 questions.''
Cr Vandervis agreed, telling the ODT people would be
''amazed'' how little councillors could be told sometimes.
''You don't have access to any more information than any man
in the street.
''Whatever staff decide to put in the [council reports] tends
to be it, because it's just too hard trying to get
Cr Benson-Pope did not respond to requests for comment
yesterday. Mayor Dave Cull is overseas.
Council corporate services group manager Sandy Graham said
councillors had ''the same right as anyone else'' to make
official information requests. It was not for her to say why
they felt the need to.
The figures showed another 51 of the requests came from media
organisations, including the ODT, 11 from lawyers, three from
MPs, 15 from organisations - including 11 from the New
Zealand Taxpayers' Union - and 164 from the public.
Most requests from the public were from ''single-issue
people'', Ms Graham said.
One person had made 15 requests since July 1 last year. She
declined to name the individual.
Media requests remained the most time-consuming, because of
their complexity, she said.
Of the 278 requests filed, 40 remained active awaiting a
response, including 11 from elected members.
The complexity of requests appeared to be rising, and the
council had one staff member to co-ordinate official
information responses, plus carry out other duties, Ms Graham
Despite that, there were no plans to change the way requests
were processed or information released on the council
website, which was ''an exemplar'' nationally, Ms Graham
''Our transparency around our processes is something other
councils ask us about often.''