Archive for the ‘General discussion’ Category

We’ve received a contribution about restricted public access to New Zealand’s cadastral system. It’s is included below, unedited.

Free, public access to the authoritative cadastre of New Zealand has finally been thwarted by the close-down (in February 2009) of the few remaining public access points for viewing it.

There is only one authoritative national cadastre. The cadastre underpins, well, everything … and in a word … fundamental ‘rights’. Meshblocks hang on it, jurisdiction boundaries are framed by it, property boundaries of course (!). But it also provides a rich tapestry of the extent of past land use and settlment … it contributes much to our records, and culture and heritage. People have reasons to view the cadastre for private research and study, or to participate in democratic process.

The authoritative cadastre (the only one to trust) is also the spatial index to over a million survey records (official survey plan images). The publicly accessible cadastre (until Feb this year) enabled any citizen to browse the authoritative cadastre … exactly the same version that land professionals transact with … which makes it the only view to trust, and to be confident that if what you’re looking for isn’t there, then it doesn’t exist … it’s not in the official public register.

Why are citizens now denied direct viewing? Why are citizens being encouraged to access outdated, incomplete ‘copies’ (none are exact copies) of the official national cadastre?

Restore simple access to the real thing … so we’re all ‘singing from the same songbook’. The public needs to participate with the original, indefeasible view of the cadastre of New Zealand.


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An interesting press release from the Office of the Ombudsmen, Dec 2008:

“While in some cases this was clearly a misunderstanding of their obligations, there is also a regrettable tendency to game the system and delay responses until the complainants’ interest in the matter had passed,” she says.

Must be a fairly common practice for the Office of the Ombudsmen to bother seek media coverage over it.

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Martin Tiffany of the Waikato Times noticed the Cook Islands Government created an Official Information Act based on New Zealand’s.

The Cook Islands News mentioned in Martin’s post has published the Cook Islands Official Information Act on their website. It came into force on 11 Feb 2009.

I know some Cooks enthusiasts (members of the large expatriate community who dream about reforming the Islands) who could use the OIA to good effect.

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So what happens In The Real World when an agency refuses or delays repeated requests for information under the OIA? Nothing much, says Stephen Price in a post on enforcing the OIA (also see the example of the Department of Corrections).

The types of government-held information this blog is interested in aren’t embarrassing to the hierarchy of your average Government agency, so I think the escalation paths already available to the Ombudsman are quite effective in our context of low-level data requests. Theoretically, you can encourage the Ombudsman’s Office to issue a report to a higher management step each time a request is rebuffed, until eventually the Prime Minister’s Office or the relevant Mayor is reached.

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I’ve come across an intriguing Indian law called the Right to Information Act 2005.

According to the Wikipedia article, the RIA was designed to achieve two broad objectives:

  • encourage government bodies to pro-actively publish information (weehee!)
  • grant citizens specific rights to request and access government-held information

Interestingly, the RIA was preceded by an Indian Freedom of Information Act, which the Wikipedia article claims was heavily criticised for allowing government bodies too much leeway in exemption criteria.

Some interesting points about the RIA:

  • it covers State bodies and their agencies, not just the Indian Central Government;
  • it requires appointment of Public Information Officers at each agency;
  • yearly reports are required on RIA requests, fulfilments and refusals;
  • it specifically includes digital data and media:

“information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force;


obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device;

Of course, certain types of geodata in India are considered security sensitive and the RIA doesn’t apply under those circumstances.

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