The Ombudsman is investigating a refusal by Housing New Zealand to release details about its consultation with the Whangārei District Council over a controversial state housing development.
Whangārei MP Dr Shane Reti wrote to HNZ in May, asking for details under the Official Information Act (OIA) about the government department's consultation with WDC regarding the sale and purchase of land on Puriri Park Rd.
HNZ plans to build 37 mostly double-storey houses on 32,730sq m of land zoned for residential purposes adjacent to a public park, which has angered Puriri Park Rd residents.
In declining Reti's request, HNZ deputy chief executive Greg Groufsky said his department took its responsibilities under the Act seriously, and valued the ability of its staff to openly discuss, debate and share views when consulting on OIA requests.
"Disclosing the details you have requested is highly likely to inhibit staff from expressing or recording free and frank advice on information requests in future," he said.
"There are no factors which would render it desirable, or in the public interest, to make the information available."
Groufsky said HNZ has decided to refuse Reti's request in order "to maintain the effective conduct of public affairs through the free and frank expressions of opinions between members of any department or organisation in the course of their duty".
Reti then wrote to the Ombudsman who informed him that an investigation into his complaint was under way.
In a letter, senior investigator Michael Cleary said he had written to HNZ chief executive Andrew McKenzie and asked for relevant information and reasons for the decisions.
Reti said having won the first complaint against WDC, the Ombudsman has now accepted a further complaint — this time against HNZ.
Late last year, Reti lodged a complaint with Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier about the WDC's decision not to release certain information to him about the Puriri Park Rd housing development.
Dr Reti had requested the council provide details of any communication to, from or associated with or in respect of its disposals process, including historical title and the future use of land at Puriri Park.
That complaint was discontinued after WDC provided the required information.
"Housing New Zealand were more than willing to release information to me under the Official Information Act a year ago, but now that they realise they have acted poorly, they have shut up shop and refused to release any more," Dr Reti said.
September 18, 19, and 20 have been set aside by WDC to hear public submissions on the controversial housing development.