A comprehensive policy on email quarantining landed on Horowhenua District Council's table on Wednesday and was voted in by nine councillors, despite the organisation still being under investigation for the practice by the Ombudsman and Privacy Commission.

The policy states that it is not acceptable for emails to "unduly interfere with staff and their decision-making processes, to criticise staff or to simply abuse and harass [them]".

Any messages thought to breach the policy will be categorised as either minor, major or extreme, and could land their sender on the council's quarantine list.

The policy follows local outrage and national debate on the issue after it was discovered through an internal audit that Horowhenua District Council chief executive David Clapperton had been personally screening emails, including some sent to elected members, who are not employed by him.

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The audit documents, which were leaked to media, said the practice was an extreme risk, but the report was rejected by HDC, which commissioned accounting firm KPMG to carry out a peer review.

That review then claimed there were inadequate working papers from the auditor to be able to determine whether the screening practice was high risk or not, and discredited the auditor, who has not spoken out and is believed to be bound by a confidentiality agreement.

The council did immediately stop the practice at the time, saying a proper policy was needed. The new policy, tabled on Wednesday, excluded emails to elected members, saying they will be "offered support to manage their existing software".

The policy defined three categories of breach, and depending on whether a sender has previously breached the policy and to what extent, the council would determine whether the person was added to the quarantine list, and for how long.

All senders who are considered by HDC to have committed a breach would receive a message to let them know - something HDC had reportedly not always done previously.
Deputy mayor Wayne Bishop said the policy clearly sets out council's processes and will be easily visible for the community.

A statement from the council said the policy had been referred to the Office of the Ombudsman and Local Government NZ and may change, subject to their feedback.