DCC reviews charges for information

The number of demands for information from the Dunedin City Council have jumped to 66 in just three months, mainly as a result of members of the public and the media chasing details relating to the Forsyth Barr Stadium.

The increase has placed a demand on staff time, and prompted a review of the amount the council charges.

The requests, under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, were mostly for information on the Forsyth Barr Stadium, the recent sale of Carisbrook, and "various parking matters", council governance manager Sandy Graham said in a report on the issue.

The report, to next Monday's finance and strategy committee, said of the 66 requests, 39 were from individuals, 18 from the media, five from lawyers and four from businesses.

It recommended the council provide the first three hours of information-gathering free, but after that, should impose a charge of $38 per half-hour, or part thereof.

In the past, charges were levied on a case by case basis, a system that had worked "reasonably well".

Ms Graham could not be contacted yesterday, but her report said anecdotal evidence suggested the requests were increasing both in volume and complexity.

The $38 per half-hour figure was taken from Ministry of Justice guidelines, but those guidelines provided for charges to be waived in certain circumstances, including if the release of the information was in the public interest.

The guidelines made specific mention of media requests, and inclined towards not imposing a charge on them.

They suggested the first hour should be free.

Ms Graham said other local authorities were canvassed on the issue, and they adopted a variety of approaches.

"While many have adopted the Ministry of Justice guidelines, most take a generous view of how these are applied."

Most did not charge unless the request was for a very large amount of information, or was vexatious in nature.

Auckland provided the first five hours free.

The recommended policy allowed for discretion to be applied when setting the charge.

david.loughrey@odt.co.nz

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