Transport Minister Simon Bridges tries to block official information request

by Benedict Collins / 07 June, 2017
RelatedArticlesModule - transport
Transport Minister Simon Bridges refused to be interviewed but said his office had only offered a view on the proposed release of information. Photo / Getty Images

Emails show KiwiRail had been repeatedly urged by Mr Bridge's office not to release the details.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges has been caught trying to block an official information request for details about a proposed new $50 million Auckland railway line.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters tabled an email trail in Parliament yesterday showing that Mr Bridges' office repeatedly urged KiwiRail last week not to release a business case on Auckland's proposed third main railway track.

Initially, his officials opposed the document being released, saying it was part of an unsuccessful budget bid, but were told by KiwiRail on Thursday that the law was clear it should be released.

After consulting its legal team, KiwiRail told Mr Bridge's office it would struggle to justify not releasing it.

But on Friday Mr Bridges' office again urged KiwiRail not to release the business plan.

This time it used a scatter-gun approach - arguing the report was only a draft, was on a misleading template and that its proposed release was making them "extremely uncomfortable".

Mr Peters said Mr Bridges was clearly been trying to heavy KiwiRail into keeping the information secret.

"You've got the minister after nine years of government exhibiting all the arrogance that often long-time governments do exhibit - and he's saying 'well we'll be seriously uncomfortable about that'.

"Well the Official Information Act is not about the comfort zone of governments or ministers, it's about the right of the public and the media to have critical information that they need," Mr Peters said.

The business case for the third main track had been requested under the Official Information Act by public transport advocate group Greater Auckland.

Writer Harriet Gale said the proposed railway line was seen as crucial in helping KiwiRail manage freight train movements while passenger services were booming.

"This is a really integral piece of infrastructure, we're talking $50 million really, it's a small part of any transportation budget," she said.

"It's mostly completed - KiwiRail just needs the last $50 million to complete it."

Ms Gale said KiwiRail made it clear the business case did not need to be kept secret and that the minister's behaviour was worrying.

"I think what's disappointing overall is that it's just a general tendency in this process of gathering official information that we're just seeing so many rejections and so many redactions in official information.

"And we've seen this because New Zealand has dropped in press freedom indexes this year as a result of the way we are dealing with official information."

Mr Bridges refused to be interviewed but in a statement said his office had only offered a view on the proposed release of information and said it was up to KiwiRail whether they did so or not.

This article was originally published by RNZ.

MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

New 'treaty' for Aboriginal empowerment owes much to New Zealand Maori
75169 2017-06-27 00:00:00Z World

New 'treaty' for Aboriginal empowerment owes much …

by Bernard Lagan

It's an overdue voice for Aboriginals and was wildly misinterpreted by those who should know better.

Read more
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band revisited
75317 2017-06-27 00:00:00Z Music

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band revisited

by Graham Reid

Half a century ago the Beatles released Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Graham Reid considers the album and its reissue.

Read more
Small business by the numbers – why the sector defies generalisation
75517 2017-06-27 00:00:00Z Small business

Small business by the numbers – why the sector def…

by Rob O'Neill

Small businesses are vital to New Zealand’s economy, but efforts to understand them continue to fall short.

Read more
What to do and see in Wellington
74641 2017-06-27 00:00:00Z Sport

What to do and see in Wellington

by Noted

You lucky little blighters! Wellington really is a fantastic place to… well, do almost anything.

Read more
One smart way to win the America's Cup is to dare to be different
75588 2017-06-27 00:00:00Z Sport

One smart way to win the America's Cup is to dare …

by Paul Thomas

Team New Zealand’s grinders use their legs; Oracle’s use their arms, as did the grinders on every other boat that took part in the America’s Cup regat

Read more
On Radio: July 1, 2017
75492 2017-06-26 10:18:52Z Radio

On Radio: July 1, 2017

by Fiona Rae

The best of the week.

Read more
Crossword 1033 answers and explanations
Winston Peters: Kiwis in regions should get their fair share
75466 2017-06-26 08:35:11Z Politics

Winston Peters: Kiwis in regions should get their …

by Benedict Collins

Winston Peters wants New Zealanders in the regions to benefit more from the wealth they help generate.

Read more