This year’s Ombudsmen annual report to Parliament, tabled last week, had an interesting discussion on the disclosure requirements around the rules governing parking ticket waivers (page 39).
Someone had asked a local authority (no idea if it was Wellington City Council) for a copy of the criteria used to decide whether or not to waive parking tickets.
The local authority refused under two grounds:
1/. Section 7(h) of the LGOIMA which allows information to be withheld so a local authority’s commercial activities are not disadvantaged. The local authority told the Ombudsman that releasing the criteria “would impact negatively on the authority’s ability to generate revenue from parking offences.”
The Ombudsmen did not give much truck to that argument. They said:
“In administering parking infringement bylaws, local authorities are carrying out a law enforcement role, not a commercial one. The fact that income may be generated from carrying out a law enforcement role is beside the point. We did not accept that section 7(2)(h) of the LGOIMA could apply at all in respect of such information.”
Round one – the little person.
2/. Section 6(a) of the LGOIM which allows information to be withheld as disclosure would prejudice the maintenance of the law.
Again, the Ombudsmen ruled, not applicable.
“Release of the factors that authorities consider in deciding whether to waive an offence would not prejudice the maintenance of the law. These factors form part of the law as it operates in practice and citizens are entitled to know of them in determining how they interact with the authority.
Other state sector agencies disclose the basis on which they make prosecutorial decisions. For instance, the Crown Law Office publishes the factors to be taken into consideration in deciding whether or not to initiate a prosecution; and the Police publish the criteria under which they decide whether to deal with an alleged offender under the Adult Diversion Scheme. The maintenance of the law requires disclosure of such criteria, so that everyone knows the basis on which the law operates.
It is no answer to say that people may challenge their liability in a court of law. Their liability is not at issue in these cases. The issue is the authority’s exercise of its discretion not to prosecute. Apart from judicial review, there is no means of challenging that exercise of discretion. The law is maintained, not prejudiced, by disclosing the basis on which the discretion is exercised.”
Round two and match – the little person.
So if you want to know what the criteria are when the council considers whether to waive a parking ticket, ask them for a copy and under the law they have to give it to you. If anyone gets a copy of the WCC criteria, send us a copy at WCC Watch and we’ll post on them.
The ruling also confirms that a parking infringement regime must be about law enforcement, not revenue gathering to offset rates. That would be unlawful. Someone please tell Tenix Solutions and Armourguard’s Parkwise.