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Friday, May 05, 2006

ADT decision on property valuations

The ADT in Retain Beacon Hill High School Committee v Department of Commerce (2006) NSW ADT 129 considered the status of documents concerning the valuation of a school property and associated documents relevant to preparation for sale by the Department of Education to Landcom. The Tribunal found two documents which did not contain valuation details were not exempt, found others exempt under Clause 7 (Business Affairs) and Clause 15 (Financial and Property Interests) and referred a number of documents back to the agency to reconsider in the light of the possibility that the information they contained had already been disclosed in a development application lodged with a local council.

This decision deals with substantive aspects of the application following an earlier decision regarding documents inadvertently released by the Department.

There isn’t much law in the decision but the Tribunal seems to have given very limited consideration to the public interest balancing test involved in Clause 15.

The decision records that some documents had been released in the original determination, others released on internal review and two additional batches of documents released prior to the ADT decision.

It seems to be a common practice in decisions that end up in the ADT that documents dribble out in this fashion. Perhaps the incentives in the FOI scheme to make the right decision early in the piece are just not strong enough.

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