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15030 posts

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# 214272 4-May-2017 16:24
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I was wondering if anyone knows the answer to this.

 

I have asked a council to view the property packet on a property. My local council has it all accessible on computer, so you just go into the council offices type in the address and can view the details (which are just PDFs) easily, and get them to print any info off. They do charge a photocopying fee but nothing else, which I consider to to a reasonable way to handle it. However this other council I have contacted, don't have computers for the public to access. Either the property packets are still hard copy format, or they are stored electronically for newer properties. They appear to charge per 10 minute interval if you want to view the hardcopies, as well as the time it takes to photocopy, plus a cost per page. They also charge a fee for the electronic ones to be emailed to you, when it is probably just a 5 minute job to find the property files as a PDF, and email a link.

 

However I am wondering if they are allowed to charge for this, as it is official information? According to the Official Information Act guidelines https://www.justice.govt.nz/about/official-information-act-requests/directory-of-official-information/charging-guidelines-for-oia-requests/ , it says you usually won’t be charged for the first hour of staff time on your request, or for the first 20 pages of photocopying. Does anyone know if they should be charging like they are?


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  # 1775683 4-May-2017 16:27
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My ex-company is one of the largest supplier of property file digitisation to councils. Many have done digitisation and as you say, it should be available even online for the public. But they have usually spent in the millions to scan all the files so maybe just wanting to recoup costs?






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  # 1775695 4-May-2017 16:42
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Where in the country is the data you are trying to access?


 
 
 
 


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  # 1775751 4-May-2017 17:26
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check out the local council rating act, they are meant to provide access for free, usually this means inspection at their office/library etc, for printing It would be reasonable to charge a small fee, for emailing, questionable as there isn't exactly extra charges incurred.

 

 

 

 


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  # 1775763 4-May-2017 17:33
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I work in the GIS industry and many councils are customers I deal with.

 

The authoritative land parcel data is held by LINZ. Its freely available. You can download from here; https://data.linz.govt.nz/ - many councils use this as a data feed.

 

AFAIK the councils can and are allowed to charge for cost of dissemination or preparation. This may be a cheap print out or more if there is cost to prepare a customized map. This is why there is a cost for LIM's as this is usually a combination of manual and automated process.

 

Many councils have online mapping systems where you can print out your own map (PDF etc)

 

BTW The LINZ data service serves data in many open (geospatial) standards in order to be considered an open datasource (in the old days it used to all be proprietary)




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  # 1775766 4-May-2017 17:36
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gregmcc:

 

check out the local council rating act, they are meant to provide access for free, usually this means inspection at their office/library etc, for printing It would be reasonable to charge a small fee, for emailing, questionable as there isn't exactly extra charges incurred

 

 

 

 

Thanks. I think it costs more if I go to their offices, as I can see they have a fee schedule that says they charge per 10 minute intervals for searching for plans. Although can't see anything in their fee schedule for sending me actual files. I did ask them where it stated this fee twice, but they didn't provide an answer. A few years ago when I went in they didn't  charge anything for accessing them, nor emailing them to me, so something has changed. So it doesn't appear there is a free way to access them, unless I make an OIA request for them, which involves another staff member to submit it through, and which takes up to 20 working days, eg a month or so. But I am in no rush for the info. But as they have just got the file sitting there, and it takes no more than 5 minutes to send me the link to it, I don't think it is very good.




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  # 1775769 4-May-2017 17:41
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tchart:

 

I work in the GIS industry and many councils are customers I deal with.

 

The authoritative land parcel data is held by LINZ. Its freely available. You can download from here; https://data.linz.govt.nz/ - many councils use this as a data feed.

 

AFAIK the councils can and are allowed to charge for cost of dissemination or preparation. This may be a cheap print out or more if there is cost to prepare a customized map. This is why there is a cost for LIM's as this is usually a combination of manual and automated process.

 

Many councils have online mapping systems where you can print out your own map (PDF etc)

 

BTW The LINZ data service serves data in many open (geospatial) standards in order to be considered an open datasource (in the old days it used to all be proprietary)

 

 

 

 

Thanks. I am after just the property packet, which contains things like council held building plans etc for a property, which is already scanned in as a PDF doc.So I am not after the land parcel data or title stuff, as I already have that infro. It is also on the GIS which I can easily print out. Luckily they do have quite a good GIS already online, as well as the Wellington regional councils GIS.


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  # 1775774 4-May-2017 18:09
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mattwnz:

 

 

 

Thanks. I am after just the property packet, which contains things like council held building plans etc for a property, which is already scanned in as a PDF doc.So I am not after the land parcel data or title stuff, as I already have that infro. It is also on the GIS which I can easily print out. Luckily they do have quite a good GIS already online, as well as the Wellington regional councils GIS.

 

 

Ah right thats a whole other ball game. Really depends on the systems they have.

 

While they may have digital copies they may not be in a integrated system or easily searchable. 

 

But as already stated AFAIK they are allowed to charge for cost of dissemination and if it takes X hours/days to put the packet together then they will charge accordingly. EVen things like LIMs have a base charge and then $X per hour after the first Y hours.


 
 
 
 




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  # 1775801 4-May-2017 18:23
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tchart:

 

mattwnz:

 

 

 

Thanks. I am after just the property packet, which contains things like council held building plans etc for a property, which is already scanned in as a PDF doc.So I am not after the land parcel data or title stuff, as I already have that infro. It is also on the GIS which I can easily print out. Luckily they do have quite a good GIS already online, as well as the Wellington regional councils GIS.

 

 

Ah right thats a whole other ball game. Really depends on the systems they have.

 

While they may have digital copies they may not be in a integrated system or easily searchable. 

 

But as already stated AFAIK they are allowed to charge for cost of dissemination and if it takes X hours/days to put the packet together then they will charge accordingly. EVen things like LIMs have a base charge and then $X per hour after the first Y hours.

 

 

 

 

The rate they tried to charge me calculates out at 20 minutes of work, according to their rate for ' plan searches',  so it is well under the 1 hour. I believe they may only charge for accessing information like this, if it is over 1 hour, according to the act. 

 

LIMs are different, because they are always going to take over an hour, and councils are permitted to charge for anything over an hour.

 

The thing is though, putting them in an electronic format, should be making the costs associated with the public searching and getting that information cheaper and easier, not more expensive and harder.

 

This council however is an exception. Other councils I have used, they have this information all accessible in their foyers on PCs, you just type in the property address, and it will display 1 or more PDFs with the scanned property packet in it. Potentially these file can then just be dragged across to a USB stick, printed out, emailed etc. Photocopying rates are usually quite high though per page at the councils, so I suspect they are making some money back from that.  I would expect most councils to be using similar systems.


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  # 1775819 4-May-2017 18:52
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mattwnz:

 

I would expect most councils to be using similar systems.

 

 

You would think so. Many are now on the same GIS platform but they have so many ancillary systems which vary in quality etc due to the size/budget of the councils.

 

Some of them barely have electronic asset management systems.

 

 

 

mattwnz:

 

The thing is though, putting them in an electronic format, should be making the costs associated with the public searching and getting that information cheaper and easier, not more expensive and harder.

 

 

One would think that but as someone mentioned earlier they probably spent millions (of rate payer money or borrowed it) to fund the digitization. Beyond that there is increased demand from increasing populations not to mention the fact that 20-30 years ago they probably had interns/cadets to do donkey work for next to nothing even if that did involve looking through filing cabinets for hours. Nowadays they are probably paying several people (very well) to do that same albeit more efficiently - not to mention someone has to pay for those 500K CEO salaries.

 

I cant comment on the rates they are charging etc but I understand your frustration. I would expect if you are using a self service system the cost should be negligible.

 

Best thing you can do is complain/talk to a city councilor and get them to put it on the budget.

 

But then again they have urgent priorities like aging/failing infrastructure that cant cope with population expansion.

 

You also need to consider that the alternative is to raise rates for everyone.

 

 


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  # 1775821 4-May-2017 18:54
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PS if you think they are charging you unfairly then I'd talk to them. Like you say the rate they charge for these services are public so if they aren't sticking to that you do have the right to complain and get it rectified.




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  # 1775827 4-May-2017 19:08
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tchart:

 

mattwnz:

 

I would expect most councils to be using similar systems.

 

 

You would think so. Many are now on the same GIS platform but they have so many ancillary systems which vary in quality etc due to the size/budget of the councils.

 

Some of them barely have electronic asset management systems.

 

 

 

mattwnz:

 

The thing is though, putting them in an electronic format, should be making the costs associated with the public searching and getting that information cheaper and easier, not more expensive and harder.

 

 

One would think that but as someone mentioned earlier they probably spent millions (of rate payer money or borrowed it) to fund the digitization. Beyond that there is increased demand from increasing populations not to mention the fact that 20-30 years ago they probably had interns/cadets to do donkey work for next to nothing even if that did involve looking through filing cabinets for hours. Nowadays they are probably paying several people (very well) to do that same albeit more efficiently - not to mention someone has to pay for those 500K CEO salaries.

 

I cant comment on the rates they are charging etc but I understand your frustration. I would expect if you are using a self service system the cost should be negligible.

 

Best thing you can do is complain/talk to a city councilor and get them to put it on the budget.

 

But then again they have urgent priorities like aging/failing infrastructure that cant cope with population expansion.

 

You also need to consider that the alternative is to raise rates for everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks, I agree with a lot of what you say. The thing with increase populations though, is that should mean that  more rates being are paid, so more staff can be hired to cope with that etc. So it should be at least proportional. Although probably not the case so much in reality, due to a lack of housing being built, and  an increase in the number living in a single dwelling. Perhaps part of the problem is that this council doesn't have their system on computer for the public to access (they are a small council), while other councils do, which would save them a lot in staff time. I expect that the actual running of these systems are covered by the rates, and they have staff budgets for providing customer service like this. eg if someone wants to replace drainage on their property, they can view the 'as built' plans in the building packet easily and freely, at  rather than risk digging up and hitting pipes, and cause the ratepayer significant cost.

 

  But a the end of the day, they should be working within the Official information guidelines, which does state that they shouldn't charge for access to this information which involves less than hour of work, or the printing of less than 20 printed pages. Although I am guessing 'guidelines' aren't 'rules'. So if I am not happy, I would have to make a complaint to the Ombudsman, which is more hassle than it is worth for this.   Hopefully sanity will prevail, and they will just send me the file in the next month. They have however wasted more of my time and they have also involved 4 or more staff at their end dealing with the OIA request.


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  # 1775921 4-May-2017 21:52
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the biggest issue most council have is it not ALL info is digital yet - it a big cost to scan in 100+ years of records for all property in a format that can be searched. if they not done this yet, then it get what they can in the system from the x years that is digital, then head into the manual archive and get what you want - so yes there will be a cost of time for this - IF it is all digital (and i can only think of one or two council that is) then it has cost alot of money to do so, and still take time to search system and send it - sound like they not charging alot - just pay it.




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  # 1775935 4-May-2017 22:14
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bagheera:

 

the biggest issue most council have is it not ALL info is digital yet - it a big cost to scan in 100+ years of records for all property in a format that can be searched. if they not done this yet, then it get what they can in the system from the x years that is digital, then head into the manual archive and get what you want - so yes there will be a cost of time for this - IF it is all digital (and i can only think of one or two council that is) then it has cost alot of money to do so, and still take time to search system and send it - sound like they not charging alot - just pay it.

 

 

 

 


But it is actually the property owners are actually the ones paying for the stuff to be digitalised. I will have to pay a large scanning fee to the council for them to scan in a lot of my property data soon, such as plans and specs. I suspect there is a good margin on this to help pay for old documents to be scanned in over time as well. So I am going to be paying anyway. So it all adds up. So not sure what the benefit is apart from making it easier for them to search for? But these types scans don't have OCR, so apart from the file name, nothing in the scans  itself can be searched.

 


But what is the benefit of going digital if it isn't freely available. In some ways hard copies are better anyway, in terms of it lasting longer. Are pdfs going to be readable on computers in 50 years? Plus they will likely have to keep hard copies anyway. There should be a free way to access this data, and the LGOIMA looks like it prevents councils charging for something small like is. Also any amount over an hour has to reflect the actual time take in staffing cost, and not cover any previous infrastructure costs in setting up their system. I belive they have it set at a max hourly rate.  Also other councils I work with don't charge for accessing property files, as it is all self service, so no staff involved.

 

I suspect part of the problem, that led to this council charging, is real estate agents going into the council offices and accessing this info, and using up a lot of council staff time. But if they are doing that, they should have to pay, because it is for commercial gain, and in total, they will be probably be using more than 1 hour of staff time, within the specified 8 week interval. 


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  # 1776026 5-May-2017 08:05
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not specifically related to the charging for getting this information; but I ordered a pdf (on cd) of our property file. Thought the price was "within reasonable limits" for the task at hand so paid it without issue...but what i had a problem with was when I went to use the content in earnest (about 12-18 months later), the resolution of the scanning meant that many of the plans were illegible. They (at least for ours) scanned what would have been A2 files (potentially) down to A4 (pdf) with a massive loss in resolution. Really disappointing. Had to guess what a lot of the pixelation was saying :(


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  # 1776198 5-May-2017 12:29
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It was free at our council to look at the property builders file (3 years ago).

 

I just took along my smart phone and snapped everything.





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