The ongoing battle – and costs - of information extraction
In Monday's Council Matters I mentioned that on Tuesday, 2 May, a telephone conference was to be conducted by a member of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) with the objective of resolving a long-running battle between Stop Arms Fairs in Eurobodalla Inc (SAFE) and council.
As a reminder, in September last year, in a 13 page report, which pointed out many significant problems with council's reasons for its May 2016 decision to refuse to release certain documents to SAFE, the NSW Information Commissioner recommended that council should review and reconsider its decision not to release those documents - being the tender documents lodged by the South Coast Hunters Club (SCHC) in relation to the continuation of Huntfest until and including 2022.
Despite the Commissioner's report and recommendations to release the information, council declined to change its earlier decision and SAFE then appealed the matter to the Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Following a series of Tribunal conferences, council finally modified its position on this matter and, on 1 March, announced that it had now decided it should release some parts of the documents. However, the SCHC objected to this release and has appealed against council’s decision.
SAFE is being represented by Jim Bright throughout this long, tortuous appeal process and when he turned up at the council offices on 2 May, for the telephone conference, he learnt that the SCHC had lodged an appeal against the disclosure of the documents on that day, being the last day of the two month long appeal period.
While more charitable people may be happy to give the benefit of the doubt, I can't help but feel that this development - within only hours of the end of the two month long appeal period - was nothing less than a very deliberate delaying tactic that involved all of those who seek to delay the release of the information.
On 27 June both matters – SCHC v ESC and Jim Bright (SAFE) v ESC – are scheduled for telephone case conferences, conducted by a Tribunal member, as a further step towards a hearing – if agreement cannot be reached beforehand.
Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light.