The Office of the Information Commissioner has ordered Gympie Regional Council to release the report behind their controversial restructuring of their water and sewerage units in 2016, saying the information can't be considered confidential.
The Office of the Information Commissioner has ordered Gympie Regional Council to release the report behind their controversial restructuring of their water and sewerage units in 2016, saying the information can't be considered confidential.

Council told to release report it tried to keep secret

A REPORT into Gympie Regional Council controversially restructured their water services in 2016 was ordered to be released by the Office of the Information Commission

The OIC's decision follows a Right to Information Request by The Gympie Times for the document to be released last September.

It was refused by council chief executive Bernard Smith would breach the Local Government Act.

OIC assistant Shiv Martin said in his decision that this confidentiality was a consideration favouring non-disclosure; however, the RTI act overrides these provisions and as such this concern was only of "low weight”.

Bernard Smith returns from the Ironman World Championship, Kona, Hawii.Photo Patrick Woods / Gympie Times
Bernard Smith returns from the Ironman World Championship, Kona, Hawii.Photo Patrick Woods / Gympie Times Patrick Woods

Mr Martin said the council's water and sewerage services are a matter of "serious public interest”.

Given the large number of people impacted, Mr Martin said the public interest factors of the report carry "significant weight in favour of disclosure” of the reports.

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The "limited' amount of information revealed about the decision, and public concerns over this information void, also contributed to the overhaul being serious public interest.

A council submission that disclosing the report would "likely prejudice the private business and professional affairs” of certain former employees was also given low weight.

Calls for water infrastructure reform.
Calls for water infrastructure reform. Contributed

"Establishing a reasonable expectation of prejudice or adverse effect requires more than simply asserting that disclosure will result in prejudice or adverse consequences,” Mr Martin said.

"Council has not detailed the nature of the claimed prejudice, nor has it explained how such prejudice could reasonable be expected to arise from disclosure...”

A third party consulted in the review "strongly disagreed” with the "water and sewage review process and the contents of the report.

"For this reason, I accept that the matters raised in the review of council's water and sewerage services may not have been endorsed by all individuals who were involved in or affected by the review”.

Water
Water Crystal Jones

Mr Martin also found the report's information about water and sewerage infrastructure "cannot be characterised as information of a confidential nature”.

"Council has not provided any evidence to support the claimed obligation of confidence it owed to review interviewees,” he said.

Mr Martin said he did not see how the report's disclosure could "impede the administration of justice... prejudice the management function or conduct of industrial relations by an agency, or prejudice a deliberative process of government”.

On these grounds, he said access to the report be granted.

Gympie Times


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