7 Jun 2017

Transport Minister caught out trying to block OIA request

From Morning Report, 7:14 am on 7 June 2017

Transport Minister Simon Bridges has been caught trying to block an official information request for details about a proposed new $50 million Auckland railway line.

National MP and leader of the House Simon Bridges.

National MP and leader of the House Simon Bridges. Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters tabled an email trail in Parliament yesterday showing that Mr Bridges' office repeatedly urged KiwiRail last week not to release a business case on Auckland's proposed third main railway track.

Initially, his officials opposed the document being released, saying it was part of an unsuccessful budget bid, but were told by KiwiRail on Thursday that the law was clear it should be released.

After consulting its legal team, KiwiRail told Mr Bridge's office it would struggle to justify not releasing it.

But on Friday Mr Bridges' office again urged KiwiRail not to release the business plan.

Mr Peters said Mr Bridges was clearly been trying to heavy KiwiRail into keeping the information secret.

"You've got the minister after nine years of government exhibiting all the arrogance that often long-time governments do exhibit - and he's saying 'well we'll be seriously uncomfortable about that'.

"Well the Official Information Act is not about the comfort zone of governments or ministers, it's about the right of the public and the media to have critical information that they need," Mr Peters said.

The business case for the third main track had been requested under the Official Information Act by public transport advocate group Greater Auckland.

Writer Harriet Gale said the proposed railway line was seen as crucial in helping KiwiRail manage freight train movements while passenger services were booming.

"This is a really integral piece of infrastructure, we're talking $50 million really, it's a small part of any transportation budget," she said.