Court quashes ‘blanket approach’ to rejection of request for TPPA information

The Honourable Justice Collins has quashed the Minister of Trade’s decision not to release information relating to the TPPA under the OIA to Auckland University Law Professor Jane Kelsey, “one of New Zealand’s most assiduous critics of the TPP Agreement”.

Professor Kelsey, along with several other applicants, challenged the Minister’s decision in the High Court to refuse her request for information associated with the TPPA negotiations which was recently agreed.

The Judge directed the Minister to reconsider his decision in relation to six of the eight categories of information requested after concluding that the Minister’s “blanket approach” to the OIA request, which was based upon his knowledge of the categories of information, did not comply with the Act.

In coming to his decision, the Judge said that the OIA “plays a significant role in New Zealand’s constitutional and democratic arrangements”, and that it is therefore “essential the Act’s meaning and purpose is fully honoured by those required to consider the release of official information”.

When reconsidering the request, the Judge instructed the Minister to ensure he adhered to his obligations under the Act by requiring officials to “assess each piece of information requested that is in the possession of the Minster and MFAT against the criteria in the Act for withholding information.” This is despite the Court being told that the relevant documents may number “roughly 30,000 documents” – a figure challenged by the applicants.

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