Auckland Transport withheld the wrong information for 16 months

OPINION: Imagine you misplaced a sock at house. Which of the following would you do?

Would you ask another person in your family the place it could be, or sit down at your laptop computer and Google “doable places of lacking socks”?

I believe Auckland Transport (AT) would do the latter, primarily based on a comedy of errors which raises questions over its dedication to statutory obligations around releasing official information.

In November 2019, I heard a few as soon as prime secret enterprise inside AT called Project Ridge, by which it, KiwiRail and Ports of Auckland explored creating a brand new joint entity taking higher management over Auckland’s government-owned rail community.

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Time, senior executives and board members had moved on, and Project Ridge appeared like an historic quirk, however one that will nonetheless be attention-grabbing to seek out out about. So I requested AT for experiences. It declined.

(*16*)Auckland Transport considered a new entity to run both the rail network and services. (File photo)

Simon Maude/Stuff

Auckland Transport thought of a brand new entity to run each the rail community and companies. (File photograph)

“Unable to offer the information that you’ve requested for confidentiality and industrial sensitivity causes,” it replied.

This appeared implausible, so I appealed to the Ombudsman, a statutory impartial workplace which ensures public bodies meet their obligations to launch information, besides in sure circumstances.

In August 2020, in an encouraging signal, the workplace wrote the Chief Ombudsman, Judge Peter Boshier, was investigating my criticism.

An extra letter in the direction of mid-2021 – 16 months after my first request – outlined progress, and was adopted by an e-mail from AT that it was “seeking to change the unique determination communicated to you”.

In July 2021, 170 pages of information arrived. The determination to withhold particulars about Project Ridge had been incorrect.

Alas, it took only a fast look to grasp that AT had recognized and determined to withhold, for 16 months, the wrong information.

The major merchandise was a 2016 presentation to AT’s board, which – in very massive font – stated: “2013 and 2014 Project Ridge proposal, not progressed as ‘one-step-too-far’”.

Somehow AT’s search for materials to satisfy my request had not gone again far sufficient, stopping practically two years after Project Ridge had been discarded.

(*16*)Chief Ombudsman Judge Peter Boshier.

Collette Devlin/Stuff

Chief Ombudsman Judge Peter Boshier.

After writing to AT’s chief govt Shane Ellison, the unhappy fact grew to become clear.

AT’s Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act search course of is basically mechanical.

Staff don’t all the time ask related executives the place a report could be discovered. Instead, the company’s “danger and assurance” group asks a pc to look for sure phrases.

Alas, that search omitted an older e-mail server, which closed in March 2016. After resisting the launch of the wrong information, AT promptly re-searched, discovered, and immediately launched the proper information.

In August 2021, it arrived. A enterprise case by consultants PWC, exploring a joint-venture involving AT, KiwiRail, and (reluctantly) Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency, as the first step towards a dedicated single rail network and services operator for Auckland.

But even then, materials was lacking. The enterprise case would have been accompanied by AT administration’s personal evaluation to its board.

Back I went to AT. Short story: Such was the secrecy surrounding Project Ridge at the time that a few of AT’s personal materials had been held by a blue-chip metropolis regulation agency, which now wished hundreds of {dollars} to go searching for it.

In the formal letter explaining this, AT by accident omitted the precise sum required.


KiwiRail Chief Operating Officer Todd Moyle On the massive observe substitute programme (video from June 2020)

I made a decision it was not price the value.

It’s not the first AT official information fail. In 2018 a request for experiences on the development potential of park and ride sites had, in AT’s view, turned up such an enormous quantity of fabric that it was unattainable to progress.

Eventually, a handful of particular, complete experiences had been discovered and launched – experiences that any variety of executives would have been in a position to put their palms on, early on.

In its remaining letter on the Project Ridge saga, Auckland Transport assured me that the server search had been a one-off mistake.

“We are additionally not conscious of another requests needing information earlier than 2016, nevertheless, this case has served as a reminder to be extra vigilant for future requests. Apologies as soon as once more for the time taken in your requests.”

Whether Auckland Transport was reviewing its complete method to monitoring down official information, because it assured me in 2018 that it was, was not talked about.

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