Parliament's Finance and Expenditure Committee has released a report on the New Zealand Infrastructure Commission/Te Waihanga Bill. The committee recommends that it be passed with amendments.
The bill seeks to establish the New Zealand Infrastructure Commission/Te Waihanga as an autonomous Crown entity. This new body would co-ordinate, develop and promote infrastructure strategies that improve the well-being of New Zealanders.
Appointments to the Board of the Commission have already been announced by Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones, on 21 August. He said it is expected to be operational by October 2019.
The committee received and considered 41 submissions from interested groups and individuals and heard oral evidence from 15 submitters.
Clause 23 empowers the Infrastructure Commission to request information from government departments and Crown entities. These requests could be made for information that is “necessary or desirable to enable the Commission to perform its functions”
The committee recommends that amendments should be made to strengthen and clarify the proposed powers of the Infrastructure Commission to gather information from government bodies.
It considers that clause 24 should be amended to strengthen the bill’s privacy protections, by the insertion of a new clause 24(1)(aa). This would allow entities to refuse information requests when it is necessary to protect a person’s privacy.
The committee recommends amendments to clauses 23 and 24 to include the local authorities, council-controlled organisations, and Auckland transport in the scope of the Infrastructure Commission’s information-gathering powers.
To balance the significant compliance burden on those bodies two withholding provisions should be introduced in clause 24A. This would allow those bodies to refuse information requests when the information is commercially sensitive. Under the proposed new clause 23(4A), they could not refuse a request if the information could not be withheld under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987.