“How can Councillors do their jobs if they can’t access basic information?” asks the Taxpayers’ Union, commenting on the extraordinary situation of Auckland Councillor Mike Lee being forced to go to the Ombudsman to get information from Auckland Transport relating to the CCO’s justification for proposed reductions to Auckland speed limits.
“While Councillors are elected to have governance oversight of Councils, including Council-controlled organisations, they cannot effectively do so while officials are able to stonewall,” says Union spokesman Jordan Williams.
“Unlike company directors, elected councillors do not have statutory rights to information over and above members of the public. There’s not even a duty on local officials to be politically neutral – which is an expectation currently only applicable to central government officials.”
“All this adds up to a recipe for poor governance and the sort of arrogant behaviour being exhibited by Auckland Transport in not providing Cr Lee with what is basic information.”
“A good first step to improve the performance of the local government sector would be to give Councillors greater rights to access information. That would increase their ability to do their job as overseers on behalf of ratepayers.”
Currently in the Parliamentary Members Ballot there is a Bill in the name of former Auckland Councillor, Denise Lee, the Local Government Official Information and Meetings (Rights of Members) Amendment Bill. The Bill removes many of the barriers faced by members of a local authority when requesting information. It reduces bot the time limits on providing information and the reasons officials can decline to provide it.
“Denise Lee’s Bill is common sense and has attracted support from elected members across the political spectrum. It should be picked up by the Government as a first move to improve the oversight of town halls across New Zealand,” says Mr Williams.