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Archive for the ‘LGOIMA’ Category

Quick update on Auckland City Council LGOIMA status.

Any progress with Auckland City outside the Office of the Ombudsmen complaints process seems to be thwarted due to the “Supercity” excuse: major decisions, such as on GIS data licensing and pricing, are on hold until the new city structure is in place by the end of 2010.

Practically speaking, that means major decisions are on hold until mid 2011, after the newly appointed staff settle into their restructured roles.

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A long long time ago, a LGOIMA request was filed for some Auckland City GIS data. Their reply included outrageous pricing for one out-of-date dataset, which seemed to contradict the spirit, if not the letter, of LGOIMA.

That request was not pursued due to significant restructuring of the Auckland City geospatial teams over the last few months.

Some new developments have given me renewed energy to follow up on the original request:

  • Auckland City has just appointed a new Customer Manager for Geospatial
  • Northland Regional Council has begun the process of releasing GIS data under a CC-Attrib license – NRC on Koordinates
  • Whangarei District Council is testing the same CC-Attrib release process – WDC on Koordinates

Expect an update on the Auckland City angle by the end of the week.

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Come on down W(h)anganui!!

Although this blog is focused on Official Information Act requests this post is an example of working with a private sector organisation to share their data. The OIA obviously does not apply but it is interesting how easy it can be.

I contacted the Mainstreet Wanganui Marketing Manager Louise Martin about putting their database of local businesses, as currently listed on their website, onto Zenbu as a way to grow the number of channels where those businesses can be found. The emailed reply was instant and so very refreshing:

Of course we would like our members to have a broader search-base. How would we proceed from here?

Ah the joy of working with smart people.

Louise did have some follow-up questions,

Will our members be contacted or chased up for advertising contracts?

No. Zenbu does not have any “premium listings” or other such advertising to offer.  Zenbu does not list emails, faxes or postal addresses as these are primarily Business-To-Business (bulk advertising) mediums. We simply list the address, phone, website & hours – the Consumer-To-Business contact channels.

There was also a momentary concern that the copyright to the members contact details belongs to the members themselves and maybe individual permission would be requested. Actually the publisher, Mainstreet Wanganui, owns the information which is completely factual and available to anybody walking down the street. It was quickly agreed that adding the information to Zenbu would be positive for all involved and 295 entries submitted (of which only 123 were already in Zenbu).

We’ve worked with a number of business associations to ensure all their members are added to Zenbu, Remuera Business AssociationParnell MainstreetNewmarket Business AssociationMangere Bridge Village to name a few. There have also been a few organisations who just wouldn’t talk to us at all and thought that the information should only be available on their website, which is unfortunate and rather sad. We’re always interested to hear from progressive organisations with geographical or industry vertical members who see the value in making it as easy as possible for consumers to find them or their (paying) members.

If you’re contacting private organisations about sharing their data try to cover off the obvious possible objections and make sure it really is win-win for everybody.

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I filed a request on 22 March 2009 under LGOIMA for three Auckland City geospatial datasets:

  1. community board polygons for Auckland City
  2. rating zone polygons for Auckland City
  3. building outlines for Auckland City

(1) was requested as it’s an essential dataset for Auckland City governance, and of obvious public interest. (2) was very poorly worded on my part, but was intended to be ‘zoning’ information (so this part of the request is void due to my wording). (3) is an odd dataset with little apparent value except to researchers, planners and the council itself. If there’s any value to this 3rd dataset, it’s that it can be used in road maps to indicate the presence of larger buildings, and that providers of such maps are generally private companies.

All of the above datasets have been requested by third parties, and are fairly innocuous.

Auckland City responded on 1 April 2009 that:

  1. Community board polygons would be provided under a $60/hour provision charge
  2. Rating zones – (they didn’t know what I was seeking and require further clarification)
  3. Building outlines would be provided for $6,600, minus a 10% discount of $660.

Some interesting notes were supplied with Auckland City’s response.

On why they’re charging for these datasets:

Auckland City Council geospatial data is generally available to anyone who requests it through our normal ‘Digital GIS Data’ ordering process.  Ordering data for own use of a person or Company  involves a fee for the data and the time spent extracting and sending it, though the data fee may be waived for very small datasets. 

and

As we have a process for purchasing a licence to use our geospatial datasets, they are not provided free of charge under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act process.

The ultimate extension of this logic is that Auckland City believes creating any bureaucratic sales process for getting information and data out of the council somehow over-rides the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act ($1 million for emails between the Mayor and CEO, anyone?). Further clarification of this stance was requested on 1 April, but Auckland City has yet to reply.

On the quality of a dataset they want to charge $6,600 (minus 10% discount) for:

The building outline dataset was digitised from orthoimagery dating from 2002.  It is rough outlines only not cartographically standardised.

My ‘grapevine’ understanding is that this dataset has been updated since 2002. But not a very good sales pitch from Auckland City here, aside from the substantial amount they’re seeking.

On licensing:

Please note that all the datasets are licensed for your own use, and not for on-sale or provision to any third party.  You will be required to agree to these conditions before the data can be provided. 

Fulfilling a request made under LGOIMA isn’t optionally dependent on such license agreements: the council must supply the requested information unless they refuse it under a stated section of LGOIMA. Auckland City appears to share the view of the New Zealand Fire Service on this matter.

Some ‘people in the industry’ have made it known that historical decisions of the Office of the Ombudsmen might be impacting Auckland City’s stance on charging for the building outlines. Please contact us if you know more about such decisions.

Further updates and commentary will be posted when Auckland City responds to a ‘please clarify’ email of 1 April 2009.

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[This is a substantial rewrite of my initial post of March 9th]

Koordinates has recently moved into new offices on High St, in the Auckland Central Business District. High St is a fairly busy narrow one-way running parallel to Queen St, Auckland City’s main drag.

Soon after moving in, I noticed a high frequency of parking wardens ticketing vehicles along the street. It seemed they might be maintaining a constant “patrol”.

There’s good economic reasons for doing that, of course. High St:

  • has a high “through-put”of vehicles
  • has a range of boutique shops, cafes and ‘creative’ businesses (i.e. above average earners frequent them)
  • is a short, flat and easy-to-walk road with a large number of vehicles parked in a small area (because it’s a narrow one-way with parking on either side)
  • has restrictive parking policies
  • has a number of “Loading Zones”, the meaning of which appears to confuse some drivers

These thoughts led me to wonder how much money the local council makes off parking infringement notices, and whether they financially reward parking wardens for higher ticket revenues.

To investigate matters further, I requested some statistics from the Auckland City Council under LGOIMA:

I’m looking for detailed statistics and revenue information for parking infringement notices issued to vehicles parking on High Street, Auckland CBD over the past three years (2007, 2008, January 2009). I’m also looking for information on the remuneration of parking wardens operating in the area over the same period of time – general salary levels, any bonus systems operating, particularly any salary components tied to ticketing or revenue performance.

The Council responded quickly with a “Request acknowledged” email + PDF. On 9 Mar 2009 they forwarded an email containing some statistics (see PDF linked below for more detail):

Parking fine revenue for High St, Auckland CBD, in 2008: $358,000

Infringement tickets issued: 7629 in 2008.

Average revenue per ticket: $47.

Average salary for an Auckland City parking warden in 2008: $42,285.81

Note the figures above exclude normal parking fees for street parking.

So assuming one full-time parking warden patrols High St on a salary of ~$43,000 + 25% overhead, the Auckland City Council makes a $304,250 paper profit on infringement notices for the street. However collection costs on some infringement notices could be very high.

In response to the query about parking warden renumeration:

Enforcement officers are remunerated on a competency based grading system.  This system ranges from grade one to grade three.  Within each grade there are three sub grades. The sub grades are reached through a series of competency assessments that are evaluated monthly for each officer.  The competency assessments are made up of knowledge base and demonstrated competency.  Each officer is evaluated on street by his or her supervisor monthly.  This includes a working knowledge of the full range of infringement notices.  Audits are completed on infringement notices as a part of the grading for effectiveness and detail on officers notes.

Officers are evaluated each month by a mystery parker, the rating system ranges from a A+ through to the lowest mark of a D.  This is a third party evaluation and used as part of the overall grading system. Cancellations (officer error) are noted on the grading system. 

This portion of the response is a bit vague, so deserves further clarification.

The next step will be to request similar information for a greater number of Auckland roads, and investigate the collection costs for parking infringement notices. Then we can whip up a quick map symbolising parking ticket revenue across Auckland City.

PDF of the LGOIMA Response

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This is a follow up to the previous post https://officialinfo.wordpress.com/2009/03/10/environmental-health-premises/

To our standard request for the Environmental Health premise data Ruapehu District Council had originally claimed they couldn’t release it because of the Privacy Act. I complained to the Ombudsman who agreed with me that this is business data and the Privacy Act only applies to “natural living persons”. Ruapehu failed to respond within 20 days of the original official Ombudsman notification and the follow up notification.  Today I finally received this email from Ruapehu District Council today (March 18)

With regard to this and your original request first received 23 October
2008 and your subsequent response to my reply 29 October 2008.

As in my earlier reply our current system contains both personal and
commercial data that is not downloadable in a separate format.  We
cannot give information that is collected for other purposes that affect
an individual or natural person.

We have been in the process since September 2008 in changing to a new
system (Ozone) where reporting fields can be isolated for specific
requirements.  Our activity in Environmental Health prior to September
2008 was delivered to us by Wanganui District Council’s Environmental
Health Officer (EHO’s).  We now have an in-house EHO and with the
changes to the system being concurrently built, information transfer and
validating those changes, we do not expect to have this project
completed before July 1 2009.

You have asked for this data to be digitally sent to you and at this
point in time we cannot collate that information without substantial
collation and research.

Please note that Section 13(2) of the Local Government Official
Information and Meetings Act 1987 provides for a resaonable charge to be
made for the supply of official information.  Time spent by staff
searching for relevant material, abstracting and collating, would be
charged on the basis of actual recovery.  Please note that should
charges be required for actioning your request, these will be required
to be paid prior to release of the information.

It is estimated by the IT project leader that this data sort and
cleansing would take between 40 -60 hours.

I trust this answers all your questions to date.

Regards

Marion Smith
Group Manager Community and Regulation

 

The thing is…

On 9 March (8 days ago) I had sent the request through again to the generic council email in vein hope and, much to my surprise, by 10am the next morning I had received an email containing the excel spreadsheet requested (not from Marion).

So on one hand we have a 6 month delay and a quote for 60 hours work. On the other we have someone flicking the answer off before morning tea.

Ruapehu District Council. Fail!

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Each of the 73 territorial authorities in New Zealand (should) have a database of businesses who have Environmental Health licenses.

Some of these businesses include

food premises (anywhere that serves food)
hairdressers
camping grounds
funeral directors
tattoo & skin piercing parlours
brothels
on/off/club licensed premises

We requested this information for the purpose of releasing on the http://www.zenbu.co.nz local search website under a Creative Commons license.

The project began over 6 months ago and is still going… Almost every request was made by email and a table of the results can be seen here including the contact email of all councils. (Only one of those emails bounced, Waitomo District due to ‘Mailbox Full’. That is their published email address but it has been bouncing ‘Full’ for over 3 months now.) At first we were doing a custom mail merge but recently I have just been Bcc’ing a generic request, both worked the same.

I will note some of the highlights so far.

3 councils have an online search of Food Premises including Ratings (providing ratings of food premises is an optional council bylaw, generally done only in the big cities)

Auckland, WaitakereNorth Shore

and 3 others publish PDFs 
Manukau (some data spectacularly out of date e.g.  today Howick-July-2008), Papakura and Rodney

No council publishes information about the other premises with Environmental Health licenses (hairdressers, funeral directors, etc)

Our request was along the lines of

Can you please provide a current digital file (preferably an excel spreadsheet) which includes the trading name, address & license type (e.g. food premise, campground, funeral director etc) of premises currently issued Environmental Health Licences by the council.

This information will be added to the http://www.zenbu.co.nz NZ local search engine, where the content is freely available to the public under a Creative Commons license.

This is not (or should not) be a difficult request. Many councils responded instantly (government time) with the complete information. The councils charge fees for these licenses so they should know who has them.

As you might expect the quality of response has varied massively with each council, it seems to very much depend on who gets the request and what mood they’re in. It is up to council discretion as to whether they charge a ‘reasonable sum for labour and materials’ and whether they waive that charge. The fees quoted/paid are noted in the results table , one council quoted $50 and then sent the data through unprompted 6 weeks later (Manawatu).

Many were extremely slow in response taking the maximum (or more than) of 20 working days, and others required multiple requests. I note that giving a deadline and mentioning the Ombudsman to the recalcitrant councils seemed to have a hastening affect.

On Dec 24 Upper Hutt told me they required an extension for our request from Dec 10, taking the response date to Feb 13. I prompted them again March 3 and have received no more than an acknowledgement that they are working on it (today is March 10).

2 councils, Napier and Ruapehu, stated they would not provide the information as it was protected under the Privacy Act. I complained to the Ombudsman on the grounds that licenses are obtained by trading businesses and the Privacy Act only applies to ‘natural living persons’ and this complaint was upheld. The councils were given 20 days to respond and now failed to give any response. Another complaint to the Ombudsman finally got the request fulfilled. The whole process took 4 and a half months.

A number of councils (Rotorua, Chathams) could only supply (mainly) postal addresses rather than physical. This is a little mind-boggling as if the licensing was not just a money-making exercise, as those of little faith in government may believe, then surely you would need the physical address to conduct an inspection?! I’m yet to solve that one…

Far North sent a full page letter from a legal executive explaining that it would “take staff considerable time to collate, consider and to process all the relevant documentation …. Therefore the estimated cost is $300 (5 hours x $60) plus any photocopying charges”. (The letter itself probably took 30 minutes to write.) A friend at Whangarei council told me this person obviously had no clue as the information would be available from a single report from the right person. Obviously I never found the right person. This was by far the highest quote.

I found the best councils to deal with were
Auckland, Waitakere, Dunedin, North Shore, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Nelson & Papakura
Full marks to them. 

As of today  some 15 councils have not responded to the request at all. I resubmitted the request yesterday and will give them another 20 days. By law no response is deemed as a refusal so at that stage I will refer them all to the Ombudsman… stay tuned.

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