18 Mar 2009

Council to charge more for OIA requests

3:03 pm on 18 March 2009

It is about to become more expensive to ask Whangarei District Council questions that take time to answer.

The council says there has been a marked increase in the number of requests under the Official Information Act from a few ratepayers, and staff are spending a disproportionate amount of time on them.

From now on, the council says OIA requests that can be answered within an hour will be free, but people wanting more than that will be charged.

They will be given a cost estimate first, to see if they want to continue.

Owen Lewis, from council watchdog group Integrity Action, says it is hardly surprising there are more requests.

He says the present council is not transparent in the way it makes decisions, with most debate being held in closed forums.

Mr Lewis says he has seen no evidence that the council is doing anything wrong, but secrecy is bound to create suspicion.