I love the OIA

April 28th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Have just received this response from Television New Zealand in response to an request I made:

Dear Mr Farrar

OFFICIAL INFORMATION ACT REQUEST

I refer to your request under the Act dated 8 April 2010.

Following an exhaustive search, and enquiries to the usual suspects, it appears that only one pair of pink handcuffs was purchased by Television New Zealand during the period of 1 March to 7 April 2010.

As I am sure you are aware, the handcuffs were purchased as a novelty prize for Back Benches. They were purchased from an undisclosed location in Wellington, and cost $24.99. I cannot confirm whether this represents a fair market price, or whether we paid over the odds for them.

Yours sincerely


Brent McAnulty
General Counsel/Company Secretary

I am intrigued by the reference to “the usual suspects”. Does make a habit of purchasing such items for ?

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43 Responses to “I love the OIA”

  1. peterwn (3,239 comments) says:

    Brent must have been grinning from ear to ear when dictating the letter.

    I suspect that police issue handcuffs would cost much more than $25 whilst childrens toy handcuffs would cost less than $5.

    I suppose it all depends on the purpose to which the handcuffs are put, and depending on that TVNZ may have paid over the odds.

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  2. Dave Guerin (32 comments) says:

    Did you send that OIA to all government agencies? You seem to have omitted motivation here…

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  3. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    Do you seriously think this is a valid use of parliamentary resources? How much would this OIA request have cost?

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  4. krazykiwi (9,189 comments) says:

    Yes funny. But it does highlight the fact the OIR’s can be abused. I wonder what the cost to the taxpayer was of furnishing this request?

    Related story, could be urban myth but will repeat is as truth. At schools class trip to the Christchurch central police station, the plod taking the kids, teacher and parent-helpers around showed them all the cells, interview rooms, comms room and finally some of the police equipment. On seeing a set of handcuffs, a lad of about 8 whose father was one of the parent helpers piped up and said “Oh, we’ve got some of those at home. Mummy keeps them in the top drawer beside the bed” :D

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  5. David Farrar (1,883 comments) says:

    My request was to TVNZ only and I’d say it took up 10 minutes of their Comms Manager time, 20 minutes of Brent’s and 10 minutes of Caroline’s.

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  6. Murray (8,844 comments) says:

    How much did this little titlating fishing expedition cost us please.

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  7. dime (9,800 comments) says:

    so it took 40 mins total. only $100 or so. what the hell.

    not impressed.

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  8. Ryan Sproull (7,093 comments) says:

    $100, divided by say 2.7 million taxpaying Kiwis equals…

    0.000037 cents each for a bit of a laugh.

    Do another OIA request to find any traces of these guys’ sense of humour.

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  9. dime (9,800 comments) says:

    Ryan – using that logic, lets pay $1000 towards Dimes monthly hooker bill. 0.00037 cents each so Dime can bang some skank. sounds ok to me.

    as for a bit of a laugh, thats a stretch.

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  10. Murray (8,844 comments) says:

    $100????

    You could have bought 4 sets of pink fluffy handcuffs for that sort of money.

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  11. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    Now David – that is a waste of – well almost everything. Your time, TVNZ’s time, TVNZ’s scarce money, postage, paper – the lot. Its all Taxpayers money so I expect to see a REALLY BIG apology from you for doing exactly the same thing you regularly accuse various public figures of.

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  12. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    Oh – and none of this “I apologize to anyone who took offense, to my parents, to my neighbours, to people who wear cuff links, to people who dont wear cufflinks, to maori, to non-maori, to every who isnt included in the above list, to people who have been abused by priests, to people who havent been abused by priests, etc, etc”
    None of that sort of crap.

    I expect something like “I have been a complete arse for wasting your money and I will try to behave myself in future”

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  13. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    $100, divided by say 2.7 million taxpaying Kiwis equals…

    0.000037 cents each for a bit of a laugh.

    Will it still be OK if 100 kiwis make similar frivolous OIA requests costing $100 each, ‘for a bit of a laugh’?

    How about 1000 kiwis?

    How about 5000? Still humorous?

    I have seen well justified critisism of Chris Hipkins of this blog for his frivolous abuse of OIA requests, yet here we are having a laff at one about fluffy pink handcuffs?

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  14. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    I expect something like “I have been a complete arse for wasting your money and I will try to behave myself in future”

    Replace arse with twat and you’ve got a winner! ;-P

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  15. Ryan Sproull (7,093 comments) says:

    How about 5000? Still humorous?

    Could be!

    Let’s say that 75% of them were laugh-out-loud funny, and it took about 30 seconds to read each one on average.

    That’s 41 and a half hours of reading, 31 of which were spent laughing out loud, all for $1.80.

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  16. m@tt (630 comments) says:

    So your OIA request probably cost at least 4 times the amount of the item you were asking about. What a douche.

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  17. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    Let’s say that 75% of them were laugh-out-loud funny, and it took about 30 seconds to read each one on average.

    That’s 41 and a half hours of reading, 31 of which were spent laughing out loud, all for $1.80.

    And if only 50 people out of 2,700,000 tax payers found the result laugh out loud funny – then dont you think it is unfair that 2,699,950 other tax payers have been expected to fund your enjoyment?

    Using $100/request, if 5000 kiwis made similar requests, then the cost to the tax payer would be $500,000. It would be cheaper to hire Teh Radar – and a hell of a lot funnier as too!

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  18. eszett (2,392 comments) says:

    Actually, as TVNZ is mostly funded through advertising and not through the taxpayer.

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  19. Ryan Sproull (7,093 comments) says:

    And if only 50 people out of 2,700,000 tax payers found the result laugh out loud funny – then dont you think it is unfair that 2,699,950 other tax payers have been expected to fund your enjoyment?

    Well, obviously, if they’re not funny, they’re not worth it.

    Using $100/request, if 5000 kiwis made similar requests, then the cost to the tax payer would be $500,000. It would be cheaper to hire Teh Radar – and a hell of a lot funnier as too!

    It is all rather clumsy. Perhaps if we privatised OIA requests, the competition would produce funnier results.

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  20. KiwiGreg (3,247 comments) says:

    And you are missing the point. It doesnt matter how much OIA requests cost (and most of the cost is bullshit apportionment of salaries which are going to be paid anyway). Freedom of information about what the state and its organs are up to is an important democratic right.

    Would you rather “save the money” and have the state unaccountable to its people?

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  21. KiwiGreg (3,247 comments) says:

    “Actually, as TVNZ is mostly funded through advertising and not through the taxpayer”

    Actually it’s owned by the taxpayer so any of its non-productive spending is borne by the taxpayer, even if only indirectly through a reduction in value of TVNZ.

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  22. krazykiwi (9,189 comments) says:

    Freedom of information about what the state and its organs are up to is an important democratic right

    Absolutely agree. Democracy should not be abused, not by the powerful hiding their actions, nor by the minions unearthing the trivial.

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  23. RRM (9,770 comments) says:

    Delete one pair of $25 handcuffs and substitute multiple pairs of $80+ undies purchased by Tuku Morgan using public funds and you should start to see why the question was worth asking.

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  24. Damian Christie (13 comments) says:

    Yeah to be fair, I thought the same thing when I got the phone call from our Comms person – how much time is this wasting, and what is the cost of that? I offered to short circuit the process by simply emailing David and telling him $24.99 or whatever it was, but because it was an official OIA, rather than a friendly inquiry (which in this instance would’ve been the much simpler/smarter way of doing things if you actually want the answer rather than to make some smart-arse point), it had to involve two producers, our Comms person and the Chief Legal Counsel.

    It does seem something of an abuse of the freedoms and a waste of taxpayer resources, two things I thought David wasn’t particularly in favour of.

    Having said that, the temptation to submit an OIA asking for an estimate on the cost of David’s OIA was very high… :)

    (And can you change my meta tag to my correct spelling please David? Makes it very hard to auto-google…)

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  25. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    Well, obviously, if they’re not funny, they’re not worth it.

    That is not the point I was making, my point is that not everyone would find spending half a million dollars to be a worthwhile usage of taxpayers funds, for as you put it ‘a bit of a laugh’.

    It is all rather clumsy. Perhaps if we privatised OIA requests, the competition would produce funnier results.

    No, just make it User Pays – attach a small processing cost to the request, therefore the wasters like Hipkins and Co would be less inclined to abuse it.

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  26. RightNow (6,966 comments) says:

    No, just make it User Pays – attach a small processing cost to the request, therefore the wasters like Hipkins and Co would be less inclined to abuse it.

    That is far too sensible to ever be implemented by any form of NZ government.

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  27. RightNow (6,966 comments) says:

    But I like it….

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  28. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    Delete one pair of $25 handcuffs and substitute multiple pairs of $80+ undies purchased by Tuku Morgan using public funds and you should start to see why the question was worth asking.

    I’m surprised you cannot see the difference.

    1. I dont think DPF lodged his request expecting to uncover gross overspending on fluffy pink handcuffs. He did so in an attempt at humour. While I find the response from TVNZ quite funny in a dry wit kind of way, I dont find the request humorous at all – personally I expect OIA requests to be for serious matters and this sends the wrong message. Frankly I find the fact that TVNZ purchased a pair of fluffy pink handcuffs to be of any consequence.

    2. Tuku Morgan was a goverment minister abusing tax payer funds. Any OIA request regarding that would have been done to uncover the extent of his abuse, not to give you a bit of a laugh.

    3. I have seen Hipkins rightly critisied on this blog for excessive and sometimes frivolous OIA requests.

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  29. dime (9,800 comments) says:

    It had to involve the chief legal counsel?? so $100 cost is probably a bit light.

    very very uncool DPF.

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  30. KiwiGreg (3,247 comments) says:

    “No, just make it User Pays – attach a small processing cost to the request”

    And have those departments etc who dont want to release information work out ways to make it “cost” too much. Dont underestimate the desire of bureaucrats, like cockroaches, to remain hidden from the light.

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  31. KiwiGreg (3,247 comments) says:

    @ dime S/he was getting paid anyway.

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  32. lastmanstanding (1,278 comments) says:

    Well as a substantial contributor to the Bill English John Key et al Waste of my money Account I regards the $100 as well spent and thank DPF.

    I gotta get a laugh outta the taxes I pay somehow. Considering most is wasted by the drunken sailors we call pollies

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  33. David Farrar (1,883 comments) says:

    I think my OIA was beneficial to TVNZ. It provided humour and light relief to a number of TVNZ staff (and to myself and readers here). It is well known that happy and relaxed staff are more productive and contribute better. So by providing a light hearted OIA, I have helped spread happiness.

    If I was firing these off several times a week, then I could understand criticism – but really some people need to seriously loosen up.

    A far bigger issue is why has Trevor Mallard been asking the Minister of Education for the size in hectares of hundreds of schools. That probably has a dozen staff working full-time trying to find out the answers.

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  34. GPT1 (2,116 comments) says:

    My request was to TVNZ only and I’d say it took up 10 minutes of their Comms Manager time, 20 minutes of Brent’s and 10 minutes of Caroline’s.
    And 5 minutes of every employee’s time having a giggle after it hit the office forward all?

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  35. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    A far bigger issue is why has Trevor Mallard been asking the Minister of Education for the size in hectares of hundreds of schools. That probably has a dozen staff working full-time trying to find out the answers.

    THEN POST A BLOODY TOPIC ON IT MAN!

    My guess is that he is just fishing.

    But seriously now, why do OIA requests not have a small fee attached to them? Also could someone lodge an OIA request to find out how many work hours were spent different requests? And do you think that information would be available?
    People like Hipkins and Mallard would not make stupid requests if the public could then get the figures on how much it cost for the Mad Duck and Richie Cunningham to get a little debating fodder, and make up their own minds as to the value of these two ‘politicians’.

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  36. GPT1 (2,116 comments) says:

    Absolutely, tell me more about Mallard and his hectares?

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  37. dime (9,800 comments) says:

    sorry DPF, gotta disagree. its an abuse of the OIA imho.

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  38. PaulL (6,023 comments) says:

    I don’t get it. Was this purely for a laugh – an OIA request because you thought it’d be funny? Or was there some other motive?

    If just for a laugh, then I don’t find it overly funny – surely we already knew he’d bought some pink fluffy handcuffs. Or was it funny because he had to account for them to his boss?

    Not a big deal I guess either way for me, but I’d agree not the best use of taxpayer resources.

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  39. Graeme Edgeler (3,280 comments) says:

    It does seem something of an abuse of the freedoms and a waste of taxpayer resources, two things I thought David wasn’t particularly in favour of.

    What cost was there really?

    WIll Damian be getting over-time? Will any of the others?

    There was a time cost, sure, and annoyance at that use of time, but the marginal cost will have been nil.

    but because it was an official OIA, rather than a friendly inquiry (which in this instance would’ve been the much simpler/smarter way of doing things if you actually want the answer rather than to make some smart-arse point), it had to involve two producers, our Comms person and the Chief Legal Counsel.

    Then someone needs to look at TVNZ’s systems:

    1. An email like that is a perfectly acceptable response to an OIA request.
    2. A friendly inquiry is an OIA request.

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  40. Damian Christie (13 comments) says:

    That’s really interesting Graeme – I like many people (I assume) thought for it to be an OIA request it had to say it was, and then it was treated differently. Like a complaint under the BSA rules vs just a grumble over the phone.

    But the legislation is pretty plain.
    http://legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1982/0156/latest/DLM65382.html?search=ts_act_official+information_resel&p=1

    Obviously how you respond depends on the organisation yes. But it also makes sense for big organisations to have systems in place to deal with such things, especially when they are made in an ‘official’ manner – (because DPF didn’t just call up and ask).

    Out of interest, DPF – do you say “under the OIA” when you put the request for info in? Because I reckon for the most part if I just called up a Govt department and said “I want you to give me this information about what you’re up to”, they might well tell me to f*** off, or at least ask for it to be in writing.

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  41. Graeme Edgeler (3,280 comments) says:

    I like many people (I assume) thought for it to be an OIA request it had to say it was, and then it was treated differently.

    The Ombudsman occasionally puts out a reminder about this – one of the things Government Departments do to be obstructive under the OIA is ask for people who ring and ask for information to “put it an OIA request” (thereby hoping that they’ll give up).

    It can be useful to journalists, though. If you know there’s information a department isn’t going to hand over, and that you’ll have to go to the Ombudsman before you can get it, you call up and ask for it, have it rejected out of hand, and then you don’t have to wait 20 working days for the rejection letter to come through.

    But it also makes sense for big organisations to have systems in place to deal with such things, especially when they are made in an ‘official’ manner

    Agreed. But that doesn’t mean that in a situation like this someone can’t just decide to set aside some of the protocol to deal with it quickly and simply.

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  42. Steve (4,541 comments) says:

    Get your “Pink Handcuffs” at the next ‘Erotica’ show. Besides that they have lots of those other things.
    God! Some are going on about cost and who paid. Seriously, get a life.
    Erotica Show! you know the place where no cameras allowed and lots of men foaming at the mouth just to look at the jelly wrestling

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  43. ross (1,454 comments) says:

    Damien, they might well tell you to f*** off, whether or not you’ve put your request in writing. But then you could complain to the Ombudsman which would necessitate the govt dept responding to you in writing as well as responding to the Ombudsman. Why not just just you the info in the first instance? Sure, some requesters are a pain in the arse but the way they are handled by some govt depts probably leaves a lot to be desired.

    I should declare that I have made a fair few requests for information but I seldom say that my request is made under the OIA. All govt depts should be aware that saying a request is made under the OIA is unnecessary. However, I always put my request in writing, so there is no doubt that the request has been made.

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