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Complaints over secret agreements

13 July 2009 Media Statement

Complaints over secret agreements

An attempt to hold negotiations over Auckland’s water services in secret might be a breach of the law, Progressive Wigram MP Jim Anderton says.

He is going to the Ombudsman and Auditor-General with complaints over a ‘confidentiality agreement’ Watercare has tried to make Auckland councils sign. The agreement would stop councils from disclosing any details about the transfer of water businesses to Watercare.

Jim Anderton says the agreement appears to be an attempt to thwart the law around official information - in particular the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987. It provides the only grounds councils can use to restrict disclosure of information. It also provides for redress through the Ombudsman.

“The ‘confidentiality agreement’ has the whiff of darkness about it.

“There should be nothing in the transfer of the water business of councils that can’t be dealt with through the official information statutes. The important protection for the public is that officials can’t use our money without being accountable to the public. If there are public interest grounds for withholding information, then those grounds are subject to simple review by the Ombudsman.

“Therefore the attempt to override the statute with a secrecy deal appears to be sinister.

“You can’t use public money for unlawful purposes. Thwarting an Act of parliament is unlawful. Any public money used to write this agreement or negotiate it will have to be paid back. Any lawyers involved should be thinking about refunding their fees.

“What we are seeing repeatedly from the national government and its henchmen in Auckland is a highly undemocratic tendency towards taxation without representation.

“First, the public’s right to vote on Auckland was blocked by Act of parliament, passed under urgency. Now the public’s right to know what is happening to our assets is being blocked.”

ENDS

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