Farmer fighting chlorination told to pay for information by district council

A Glentunnel resident fighting permanent chlorination in parts of Malvern has been asked to pay for further information he seeks on the issue.

The district council has told retired farmer Brian Thompson it is estimated he will have to pay $608 for it to carry out three Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act requests he made between June 28 and July 1.

It is estimated it will take the district council eight hours of staff time to collate and provide the information on the requests.

Because the first hour of preparing the response is free, the cost of the staff time works out to be about $86.8 per hour.

Mr Thompson said he refused to pay the money.

He said he has been trying to gather information and reports to have a better understanding of the history and risks in the water scheme.

“The public wants something done about this. I asked them if 25 people sent in one question each if that was all right,” he said.

But a district council spokesman told Selwyn Times between April 12 and July 13, Mr Thompson has lodged 25 requests on the chlorination.

It has not charged Mr Thompson previously.

“We have been very co-operative in working with Brian with his requests,” he said.

Recent requests were for a list of original ratepayers who were members of the Malvern Hills Water Scheme, a copy of all contamination breaches of the Hartleys Rd scheme in the past three years and records of illegal connections to the scheme.

Mayor Sam Broughton suggested the Malvern Community Board looks at using their discretionary funds to support the requests.

But Mr Thompson said it didn’t “rest well” with him and the money was supposed to be for the community.

The district council confirmed it permanently chlorinated the Sheffield-Waddington water supplies in June and the Malvern Hills Hartleys Road supplies this month and the next.

District council asset manager Murray Washington said answering these requests has a significant cost to staff in terms of time being taken away from core tasks, as well as to the ratepayer.

He said the district council works to be as open as possible and does not stand in the way of releasing information to ratepayers and stakeholders.

Under the Ministry of Justice, Charging Guidelines for Official Information Act 1982 Requests, if information can be gathered within an hour there cannot be a charge, while up to 20 pages of photocopying is also free.

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