NEW ZEALAND | Failures by New Zealand Defence Force undermined Ombudsman’s investigation

The Chief Ombudsman says failures by the New Zealand Defence Force to share all crucial information had a major impact on his ability to fully investigate earlier Operation Burnham complaints and undermined the fundamental purposes of the Official Information Act (OIA).

Peter Boshier has just released the findings of his investigation into whether he was misled by the defence force when he investigated complaints about NZDF’s refusal to release information related to Operation Burnham.

While there was no evidence that the NZDF deliberately misled me, I believe a combination of circumstances including its very poor record keeping and inadequate processes meant I simply didn’t have all the facts,” Mr Boshier says.

This serious information gap undermined my initial investigation and meant the NZDF avoided being accountable.

It is crucial that agencies give me a balanced and complete picture when I am investigating, especially on topics like New Zealand’s security and international relations. This includes putting effective processes in place to record, retrieve and consider information.

My job is to make sure the OIA operates effectively as intended by Parliament. This is a key constitutional measure and a cornerstone of our democracy. I cannot allow it to be undermined, either deliberately or inadvertently by an agency.

A case of this nature also has an impact on the effective operation of the OIA generally, and harms the ability of the Ombudsman, as an Officer of Parliament, to provide effective review and remedy for aggrieved requesters. It also harms the perception of New Zealand as one of the most transparent countries in the world. It follows I will closely investigate any such allegations, as I did here.”

Peter Boshier first investigated the case in 2018 following complaints from a number of people.

They were unhappy with the NZDF’s decision not to release material under the Official Information Act that related to claims made in the Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson book, Hit and Run, about New Zealand’s Special Air Service’s involvement in a 2010 Operation in Afghanistan.


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Source: Ombudsman, New Zealand

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