Film Studios Ombudsmen

How effective is the Office of the Ombudsmen?

 

On 20th March 2011 I lodged the following complaint with the Ombudsmen following refusal of Auckland Council to provide me with information I had sought re Auckland Film Studios Limited. Here is the complaint:

 

COMPLAINT

 

On 9th February 2011, following advice from the CEO of Auckland Council, I lodged a LGOIMA request with Wendy Brandon, General Counsel, for information concerning Auckland Film Studios Limited, in which Auckland Council Investments is a minority shareholder.

 

Here is my request:

Could you please provide all WCC notes, briefings and correspondence which relate to:

  1. The reduction of WPL’s shareholding in PWML from 400 to 240 on 16/12/09.
  2. The sale of  300 shares HCFMS Ltd (ultimately owned by Coldicutt) to AFSL of which WCC was a shareholder through WPL.
  3. The input of the Council to the amendment of the constitution of PWL on 27/1/09 (prior to its name change).
  4. The input of the Council with regards to the amalgamation of Auckland Film Studios Ltd and PWML.
  5. The financial implication for the ratepayers with regards to (a) the change in the constitution (b) the amalgamation (c) the sale of shares
  6. The cost benefit analysis conducted by WCC with regards to this investment.
  7. With regards to Ron Cherry (Accountants for Tony Tay Film Ltd) what documentation you have that considered the implications on the associated assets held through Tony Tay Film Ltd.
  8. PWML and PWL used Kensington Swan as their solicitors. Kensington Swan were also solicitors for the Council. Whose funds paid for the solicitors, the Council or the company?
  9. A copy of the legislation and the consideration which was given to that legislation which enables the Council to enter into a public/private partnership for a non-core Council business.

 

On 3rd March I rang to find out what stage my request had reached, conscious of the statutory provision for a maximum of 20 working days. Wendy Brandon was unavailable and I was transferred to Jennifer Lamm, Senior solicitor. She told me there were several boxes of information to go through and Council would probably be asking for an extension. She asked if I would like to be provided with a copy of the  information available so far. I said I would appreciate that.

 

On 6th March I received the following email from Wendy Brandon

I have asked the LGOIMA team to advise an extension to this request if that has not already been done. It requires substantial collation and research and we have had to engage a contractor who is familiar with the documentation to locate it and compile it for your request.

I rang to speak to Wendy but she was unavailable. I spoke to Bruce Thomas whom I had been told was in charge of the LGOIMA team but he did not know if an extension had been advised.

At 4.12 pm I received an email from Sharlene Riley, Information Advisor, enclosing a letter from Gary Swift, CEO Auckland Council Investments Limited advising me 

Under section 14(1)(a) of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987, (LGOIMA) Auckland Council Investments Limited is extending the time limit for responding to your request. We will reply to your request by 18 March 2011.

On 18th March I received a letter from Wendy Brandon denying my entire request. I am concerned that it appears to be a pro forma letter and although there is a range in the level of complexity of the 9 sets of information requested the generalised referrals to Sections 17(e) and (f) and Section 7(2)(f)(ii) do not give me a clear understanding of why each of the 9 individual requests was refused.

 

I would appreciate your investigation into this matter. I am not happy with having every single aspect of my application turned down.

 

RESPONSES

 

22 March 2011

Dear Mr Osborne,

Thankyou for your email dated 20 March 2011. Your correspondence has been allocated reference number:306969. Please use this number in any further communication with us on this matter.

We will contact you again in due course. In the meantime, if you have any queries or if your circumstances change please telephone us on the numbers below.

Yours sincerely,

Office Administrator.

 

8 April 2011

Dear Mr Osborne

 

LOCAL GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL INFORMATION AND MEETINGS ACT COMPLAINT:

AUCKLAND COUNCIL

(INFORMATION ON AUCKLAND FILM STUDIOS LTD)

 

I am writing on behalf of Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem, with reference to your email of 20 March 2011 in which you have made a complaint about the decision of Auckland Council on your request for official information about Auckland Film Studios Ltd.

 

Ms Wakem will be investigating your complaint.

 

As a first step in the investigation process, I have written to the Council’s Chief Executive to notify him of your complaint. I have asked him to provide Ms Wakem with the relevant information at issue together with a report on the decision of your request. You will be kept advised as to the progress of the investigation.

 

Lyn Beatson is assisting with your complaint. If you have any queries, please free to contact Ms Beatson on 300-4202 (direct dial).

 

I enclose, as an appendix to this letter, brief details of an Ombudsman’s role under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act and the investigation process for your information.

 

Yours sincerely,

Richard Fisher

Assistant Ombudsman

 

5 May 2011

I rang Lyn Beatson and asked if she had heard back from Council. She hadn’t. I asked what happened if the Council failed to respond in the statutory time-frame.  She told me “Sometimes we follow up straight away, sometimes we allow them a little grace.”

 

12 May 2011

I rang Lyn Beatson. She said she hadn’t heard back from Council but had sent them a reminder and would give them another week or so.

 

19 May 2011

I rang Lyn Beatson. She said she had still not heard back from Council. I asked for the courtesy of a written update and she said “We’re far too busy.”

 

23 May 2011

Dear Mr Osborne

 

LOCAL GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL INFORMATION AND MEETINGS ACT COMPLAINT: AUCKLAND COUNCIL- INFORMATION ON AUCKLAND FILM STUDIOS LIMITED

 

I write on behalf of Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem, to advise you that Auckland Council has notified an extension of time for its response to the notification of your complaint.

 

The Council has advised that it expects to provide Ms Wakem with a response by 3 June 2011. When it has been received, I shall write to you again.

 

Yours sincerely

Richard Fisher

Assistant Ombudsman

 

2 June 2011

Dear Mr Osborne

 

LOCAL GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL INFORMATION AND MEETINGS ACT COMPLAINT: AUCKLAND COUNCIL

(INFORMATION ON AUCKLAND FILM STUDIOS LTD)

 

I write on behalf of Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem, further to my letter of 23 May 2011, concerning your complaint about Auckland Council.

 

A response has now been received from Auckland Council. When the Chief Ombudsman has had an opportunity to consider this response, we will write to you again.

 

Yours sincerely

Richard Fisher

Assistant Ombudsman.

 

22 June 2011

I rang Richard Fisher to find out what was happening. I was told they have about 1500 complaints and can only deal with them with the resources they have. He said there were many older than mine. I asked for an approximate time-frame and was told “You can expect to hear from us within the next four weeks.”

 

19 July 2011

Dear Mr Osborne

LOCAL GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL INFORMATION AND MEETINGS ACT COMPLAINT: AUCKLAND COUNCIL-INFORMATION ON AUCKLAND FILM STUDIOS LTD

 

I write on behalf of Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem, with reference to your complaint about Auckland Council’s decision on your request for information about Auckland Film Studios Ltd.

 

At this stage, it has been necessary for Ms Wakem to make further enquiries of Auckland Council. When a response has been received, she will write to you.

 

Yours sincerely

Richard Fisher

Assistant Ombudsman

 

8 August 2011

I rang Richard Fisher to find out what progress had been made. I was told “These things take time. We’re still waiting to hear back from Council. We currently have a backlog of complaints. We have to work within the resources we have.”

 

22 August 2011

I rang Lyn Beatson. She told me they were still waiting to hear from Council. She said “They’re busy, we’re busy, that’s the way it is.”

 

22 August 2011

Dear Mr Osborne

LOCAL GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL INFORMATION AND MEETINGS ACT COMPLAINT: AUCKLAND COUNCIL-INFORMATION ON AUCKLAND FILM STUDIOS LTD

 

I write on behalf of Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem, with reference to my letter of 19 July 2011, concerning your complaint about Auckland Council’s decision on your request for information about Auckland Film Studios Ltd.

 

A response has been received from Auckland Council. When it has been considered, the Chief Ombudsman will write to you.

 

Yours sincerely

Richard Fisher

Assistant Ombudsman

 

7 September 2011

I rang Lyn Beatson and was told I would be hearing from them shortly. She added “Your case doesn’t take priority over other cases.”

 

EFFECTIVENESS

It’s now seven months since I applied for information on Auckland Film Studios Ltd.

You be the judge of how effective the Ombudsmen’s office is.

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