Sunday, May 26, 2024

Legislation to improve information sharing by councils passed

The Local Government Official Information and Meetings Amendment Bill has passed its third reading overnight.

The Bill makes important changes to how information is shared by councils under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.

“The Bill will improve natural hazard information provided in land information memoranda, known as LIMs,” said Local Government Minister, Kieran McAnulty.

“It is critical that New Zealanders have access to the best available natural hazard information when looking to buy a property. Buying a property can be the biggest investment people will ever make and should therefore be provided with the best information before they make a financial commitment.

“LIMs can at times be overly long and highly technical. This can make it difficult for people to read or understand. This Bill tackles these problems by ensuring that LIMs contain natural hazard information that is clear, concise, nationally more consistent, and easier for people to understand.”

The Bill also requires regional councils to share the natural hazard information they have with territorial authorities so it can be included on LIMs.

“This will mean buyers will get regional and district level information through a single document,” Mr McAnulty said.

The Bill will also align the grounds for withholding information with those under the Official Information Act.

“As security risks increase, including an increase in cyber-attacks, it is even more important that the intelligence agencies can increase their outreach with the local government sector. It is important they can share any relevant threat information, in a timely manner, to lessen risks to local authorities.”

“It is also important for local authorities to be able to pro-actively engage with the intelligence communities on risks. We do not want private ratepayer information ending up in the wrong hands nor do we want local authorities’ strategic assets being at risk.

“Unlike the OIA, this Act does not currently have grounds for councils to conclusively withhold information that may prejudice the security or defence of New Zealand or the international relations of the Government.

“Time has moved on since the Act was drafted in 1987, and the local government landscape is now very different. Councils face threats from cyber-attacks, and they hold strategic assets and information that need to be protected.

“In aligning this Act with the OIA, this Bill will allow councils and the intelligence agencies to work more closely together to manage security concerns. The Bill reduces the risk of information being disclosed that could prejudice New Zealand’s national security,” the Minister said.

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