Information is of high public interest
The Office of the Ombudsman has replied with the following: The NZTA CEO has been instructed to investigate the processes and reasons that led to my OIA below being refused. Subsequently the Chief Ombudsman has opened an investigation into NZTA on the matter.
Investigation of official information complaint
Request to New Zealand Transport Agency for information relating to the City Centre to Mangere light rail project. I am writing on behalf of Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier.
On 30 January 2019, you made a complaint about the decision of the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) on your request for information relating to the City Centre to Mangere light rail project. Mr Boshier is investigating your complaint.
I have today written to the Chief Executive of the NZTA to commence the investigation. I have asked for the information at issue and the reasons for the NZTA’s decision.
We will keep you updated on the investigation.
Late last year it was picked up in a public debate by Auckland Council Councillors that the New Zealand Transport Agency had stated somewhere with City Centre to Mangere Light Rail (CC2M) that:
- Work would not begin until after 2021
- NZTA have not ruled out starting at the Airport end rather than the Queen Street end as envisioned in ATAP and by the Transport Minister
I had fleshed this out in my post here: NZTA Have NOT Ruled Out Starting City Centre to Mangere Light Rail from Airport End First, Queen Street End won’t start until AFTER 2021
Furthermore comments picked up in the video-stream of the Committee made by the Council Chief Strategy Officer and later Councillor Fletcher also reinforced the point there had been discussion on which end to start CC2M.
Consequently being naturally curious I sent an Official Information Act request to NZTA on updates for CC2M.
The request was as followed:
Dear New Zealand Transport Agency,
I am seeking updates in how City Centre to Mangere Light Rail is progressing due to lack of information being published by NZTA on said project.
In this case I am looking at the methodology around which end to start City Centre to Mangere (CC2M) Light Rail (LRT) given decisions would have great impact on communities of South Auckland (positive and negative)
On the 27th of November 2018 the Auckland Council Planning Committee was discussing the CC2M update. It was alluded to by the Chief Strategy Officer Jim Quinn that NZTA had NOT ruled out starting CC2M from the Airport end and that CC2M would not start at the Queen Street end until after 2021 owing to the America’s Cup and APEC 21. For video footage of the meeting where CC2M was mentioned see https://youtu.be/GTcVHgY7rgo
For full posting on the matter see:
NZTA Have NOT Ruled Out Starting City Centre to Mangere Light Rail from Airport End First, Queen Street End won’t start until AFTER 2021
Again for clarity:
no decision calls have been made about starting CC2M from the Mangere/Airport end (just as NZTA keep couching all Airport to Botany Rapid Transit language as Light Rail) HOWEVER, no work on the Queen Street end of CC2M will start until after the America’s Cup in 2021.
My questions to NZTA are this:
1) Why will CC2M not start at the Queen Street end until after 2021
2) What methodology is NZTA using to determine where CC2M starts whether it be the City Centre end or the Mangere/Airport end
3) Has there been cost escalations in the project and if so how much
4) Has there been complexities in CC2M not previously seen that are delaying the project, if so what and how much by
5) When can we expect our first sod turned (marking the start of CC2M) for CC2M
I look forward to your reply
NZTA replied yesterday basically refusing on confidentiality and public interest grounds. You can read the refusal as a PDF here:
NZTA’s point blank refusal given advice given to Ministers is already public and of public interest as well as spamming my response with general information we already know (thus insulting intelligence) was a disappointment (at the minimum). As a result I have filed a complaint with the Ombudsman seeking an investigation into NZTA’s refusal.
The nature of the complaint is this:
I am making a complaint against NZTA on their inadequate response to my OIA request on the City Centre to Mangere light rail project (CC2M). In my request (https://fyi.org.nz/request/9233-updates-on-city-centre-to-mangere-light-rail-project-and-which-end-the-project-will-start-at?nocache=incoming-31621#incoming-31621 ) specific questions were asked after public interest was generated by Auckland Council in regards to CC2M
NZTA in my eyes have not answered any of the questions answered and their two refusal grounds are inadequate given information revealed publicly by Auckland Council.
My post on this can be seen here https://voakl.net/2018/12/03/nzta-have-not-ruled-out-starting-city-centre-to-mangere-light-rail-from-airport-end-first-queen-street-end-wont-start-until-after-2021/ and the Youtube vid of it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTcVHgY7rgo&feature=youtu.be
Regardless of business case preparation the information on delays, methodology and which end CC2M will start at is already in the public realm so the confidentiality of advice to ministers has already been “breached.”
Furthermore the refusal on Public Interest grounds is also inadequate due to the above and the story by Interest: https://www.interest.co.nz/business/97816/treasury-report-shows-tensions-minister-transport-phil-twyford-over-extremely-complex
Thus I would argue all information on CC2M to date held by NZTA is of high public interest due to costs, potential delays and complexity of the project and given the legacy of the City Rail Link which has suffered delays and cost blow outs (so trying to avoid a repeat with CC2M). Having the information requested would be helpful on the sake of transparency to the public and prevent undue speculation.
It is unknown how long the investigation will take but once it is resolved either way I will post an update to the blog.