Personal documents 'flying around for months'

Private documents of hundreds of people have been flying around the city for months, retailers claim.

The Christchurch City Council is reviewing the security of all its facilities after hundreds of notices, containing residents' personal information, were discovered around Re:Start mall in recent days.

The documents - which included bankruptcy and medical documents from residents disputing fines for unpaid parking, out-of-date warrant of fitness, and car registrations - were stored at the top of the Lichfield St car park building.

The council claimed the building was secure before Thursday and blamed a "criminal act" - where the latch and lock appeared forced open - for the files' escape.

Yet Re:Start Mall shop owners told The Press they had found council infringement notices outside the Lichfield St car park building, and scattered around the streets, as far back as March.

Dimitris Merentitis, of Dimitris Greek Food caravan, said his daughter found "a whole bag full" of parking tickets near a dumpster at the car park building months ago, before Re:Start's relocation was announced. A couple of days later she saw more documents showing names and addresses "floating around".

He understood her to have told police at the time. "If they got into the wrong hands... it's people's private details."

Another retailer said he wrote to the council twice last year with concerns about the building being insecure. "We've been noticing these papers flying around for weeks and weeks."

The city council could not respond to their claims yesterday.

Council facilities and infrastructure director David Adamson said 511 of the files, which dated from 2001 to 2009, had been collected .

A review would be completed to find any gaps in records, he said.

A complaint had been made to police. The council was checking on the availability of security footage and receiving "advice on illegal entry into this storage area".

All the file boxes had been removed from the car park building yesterday.

After its review, all documents that the council was no longer legally required to hold would be destroyed.

"We are continuing a daily environmental scan of the vicinity for any potentially loose documents, however no more have been found since [Thursday] afternoon."

"Actions are under way to further secure this unsafe building from unlawful entry."

The review of council facilities, to ensure the safety and security of council property, would include those closed due to quake damage, he said.

No concerned calls had been made to the council call centre, he said.

A police spokeswoman confirmed that police had received a burglary complaint and that an inquiry was under way.

The Privacy Commissioner had not received any complaints.

The Press