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NZSTA's Facepalm After Releasing 219 Pages Of Readable Redactions

After three months and multiple delays, the New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA) has released a significant cache of documents requested under the Privacy Act by Regan Cunliffe.

The 219 provided pages of documents were heavily redacted. However, the redaction method that NZSTA employed was faulty and all the redactions were readable by Mr Cunliffe.

NZSTA is contracted by the Ministry of Education to provide support to Boards of Trustees such as advice and training on how to respond to Privacy Act requests.

Mr Cunliffe has been fighting to obtain information from the Helensville Primary School Board since 2018. Despite the Office of the Privacy Commissioner requesting the Board hand over the information without further delay in December, the Board is yet to comply.

To obtain some of the 3,900 emails the Board is withholding without due reason, Mr Cunliffe requested all information held about him and his family from NZSTA.

The continued non-compliance makes it appear that the Board does not want to provide the information.

"I wasn’t surprised that NZSTA would also delay releasing the information to me. There's a lot of damning content in there. And, it doesn’t surprise me that NZSTA redacted so much information about what the Board said about me behind my back," Mr Cunliffe said.

"I was even more surprised to discover that all the redacted text was easily visible through their black marker pen lines. For an agency which advises Boards on this, it seems such a rookie mistake," he added.

“I believe many of the redactions are not justiably redacted under the Privacy Act,” said Mr Cunliffe.

“There are a number of emails from the former Board Chair, Daniel Makin, that have been redacted. It would be unfortunate, say, if those redacted communications suggested the withholding of information requested under the Official Information Act," Mr Cunliffe added.

“If that were the case, it wouldn’t appear to be acting in good faith,” Mr Cunliffe continued. “I would like to know what reason NZSTA might also have to redact information like that, considering their advisory role.”

In December, the Privacy Commissioner ruled that the Helensville Primary School Board of Trustees had interfered with the Cunliffes’ privacy, had no proper basis for withholding the information requested, and to release the information without further delay.

The information is still being withheld.

Helensville Primary School was placed into statutory management in December 2019.

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