High Court finds Government in breach of OIA

The Government must change its arrogant approach to the public’s right to know about official information, following a court decision that Trade Minister Tim Groser acted unlawfully by refusing to make the slightest effort to release information about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), the Green Party said today.

“A High Court decision today that Trade Minister Tim Groser acted unlawfully in a blanket withholding of information about the TPPA must signal the end of the National Government’s abuse of the Official Information Act (OIA),” Green Party open government spokesperson Russel Norman said.

“The Government’s default position has been that the people of New Zealand have no right to know, and it’s very clear that position must now change.

“Today’s High Court decision follows the Prime Minister admitting that the Government routinely delays releasing information despite the OIA requiring information to be released as soon as possible, which effectively encouraged public servants to act unlawfully with the Prime Minister’s approval. The Chief Ombudsman ticked the Prime Minister off over this.

“The Government should treat the Court’s decision as a sharp reminder that it has an obligation to weigh the public interest when it decides whether there are legitimate reasons to withhold information from the people of New Zealand.

“Tim Groser needs to realise that’s he’s not a KGB agent and we live in an open democracy with rules and standards about the free flow of information.

“The Court’s decision shows that Tim Groser wouldn’t let democracy stand in the way of his TPPA crusade.

“It’s important that we acknowledge the groups and people who successfully challenged the Government’s unlawful approach to the OIA – Consumer New Zealand, Ngati Kahungunu, Oxfam NZ, Greenpeace NZ, the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, New Zealand Nurses Organisation, the Tertiary Education Union, and Professor Jane Kelsey – because they have fought to uphold New Zealand’s democracy.

“This a somewhat hollow victory as the TPPA has now been finalised, so Tim Groser’s unlawful behaviour has served its purpose of keeping vital TPPA information secret from New Zealanders during the TPPA negotiations,” Dr Norman said.


Background note:

Eight applicants challenged a decision by Trade Minister Tim Groser not to release any information about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement that was requested under the Official Information Act.

The judgement of the High Court is available online.