Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Chief Ombudsman headed to hometown for disaster talks

Chief Ombudsman, Peter Boshier, will this week lead a series of targeted engagements across some of the nation’s cyclone-hit regions.

Mr Boshier will begin his programme in Tairāwhiti and Hawkes Bay.

Over four days, the Ombudsman will meet Iwi and council leaders, along with local advocacy groups like Citizen’s Advice and Community Law in Gisborne, Wairoa, Napier and Hastings.

“I want to get an understanding of the issues and concerns facing all of these communities,” said Mr Boshier.

“I am particularly keen to meet with Iwi leaders because of the importance of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in the work that I do.”

The Ombudsman said he has a strong personal connection with Tairāwhiti and Hawkes Bay, having been born and educated in Gisborne.

“I went to school at Gisborne Boys High. My mother’s family was from Napier. My father’s family hailed from Mahora in Hastings. I was extremely sad to see the impact of Cyclone Gabrielle in the region I grew up in,” he said.

Mr Boshier says his job as Chief Ombudsman is to keep a watch over decisions and actions made by both central government and councils.

“In any natural disaster, both central and local government need to make a series of rapid decisions to respond to the immediate crisis and to help communities recover.

“As communities move from the immediate emergency response to the recovery phase, people are likely to have questions about these actions and decisions.

“They may have questions about flood protection measures, for example, or the civil defence payments made available to people affected by Cyclone Gabrielle or the farmer and grower recovery grants scheme.

“I want to make sure people are aware of the services my office provides.

“My primary role is to investigate complaints about the actions and decisions made by central and local government agencies that affect people in New Zealand, to ensure they are being treated fairly and with honour. I know from past experience that the number of complaints my office receives goes up in the months after civil defence emergencies.”

Mr Boshier says his visit is an opportunity to obtain first-hand information, which he will be able to use to inform wider planning and his office’s strategic response.

He says one of his most important tasks is to make sure government and councils are responding to requests for official information according to the law.

“People need to feel confident and reassured about the decisions being made that affect them. This is especially important during a crisis and for people dealing with complex issues or living in remote areas.

“Councils may want advice on the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act in relation to information requests. I will be there to help them with anything they are unsure about to ensure they make good decisions in the first instance.”

The Ombudsman will also be visiting Auckland, Coromandel and Northland in the coming months. More information on these engagements will be released closer to the time.

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