Activist told to pay for council reports

Information should be in the public domain

HELEN HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 19/12/2012

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After spending $25,000 in the past year answering an anti-fracking activist's queries, the Taranaki Regional Council is now asking for payment before answering any more.

But activist Sarah Roberts is refusing to pay for information she believes should be freely in the public domain - especially for people living next to oil wells.

Ms Roberts recently requested copies of about 230 reports and was told this would cost close to $5000 for staff time and photocopying.

The reports would have to be retrieved from the archives, then checked to see the information was able to be released to the public, then photocopied, the council's director of resource management, Fred McLay, told her.

"It isn't unusual for councils to charge for large requests."

Charging is allowed under the Official Information Act.

In August, the council decided to stop answering Ms Roberts' "mischievous and vexatious" questions. However, it has continued to answer her requests under the act.

Last month, Mr McLay told Ms Roberts that to respond to another request would cost about $7080 - $6080 for the time and an estimated $1000 for the photocopying. It would take a staff member two weeks to find and copy the information, .

After the council supplied Ms Roberts with information free of charge she narrowed her request and the cost dropped to $580. But she says she will not pay because she does not want to set a precedent. The reports should be on the council's website, she said.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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