Cull emails kept secret to protect 'public interest'

The Office of the Ombudsman is to investigate the Dunedin City Council's refusal to reveal the contents of Mayor Dave Cull's email exchange discussing the Dalai Lama.

It emerged last month Mr Cull obtained advice on the Tibetan spiritual leader's visit to Dunedin from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, after initially denying receiving outside advice on the trip.

Mfat officials declined to release copies of the emails, despite an official information request, saying publication could pose a threat to New Zealand's international relations.

Council staff on Monday declined to release their copies of the same exchange, saying the emails were subject to ''an obligation of confidence'' and publication could ''damage the public interest''.

The Otago Daily Times has referred the decisions to the Ombudsman's office, which acknowledged receipt of the material on Wednesday.

A response was expected within a month, the office said.


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