Coalition negotiation document won't be released by Ombudsman

Winston Peters and Jacinda Ardern.
Winston Peters and Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Getty

The Government won't be forced to release unofficial coalition negotiation documents.

The document was described by NZ First leader Winston Peters as 38 pages of "directives to Ministers". That was revised down to 33 or 32 pages after the font size was reduced to 10.

The document was requested by journalists under the Official Information Act, as it's understood to contain information that could inform future Government decisions.

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier stepped in to make a decision after complaints over the Government's refusal to release the document.

He has now confirmed Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is entitled to refuse requests for the document because negotiations took place when she was Labour Party Leader, not a Minister of the Crown.

"It was considered during the coalition negotiations. This document did not form part of the final coalition agreement," he said.

"Her officials have advised me that the document has not been used by any Minister to carry out their official duties. It has played no part in policy decisions, and it is not available to Ministers as reference material nor does it contain any directives or guidance that Ministers apply when making official decisions."

The Official Information Act applies to Minister in their official capacity, but they can hold information as private citizens, Members of Parliament or as members of political parties. The Ombudsman explains "This only becomes official information as defined by the law if it is later used for official ministerial purposes."