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Making government better at resolving disputes Briar Pelling
10 February 2016

dispute resolution blog

Our office is proud of the work we do in the area of dispute resolution. Where it is appropriate, we try and bring complainants and respondents together, in person or by phone, to resolve privacy disputes. Last year, we closed 827 complaint files and of these, nearly half were achieved with a settlement between the parties involved.

We’re therefore pleased to have been included in a pilot project aimed at leading and strengthening the use of dispute resolution by government services and agencies.

Dispute resolution works!

Dispute resolution is about trying to resolve disputes between parties so that they don’t end up in court. We’ve found that a resolution might include an apology or an acknowledgement, a promise of confidentiality, a change in an agency’s processes, staff retraining, or a compensatory payment. 

Many New Zealanders have learned the hard way of the time, cost and emotional drain of litigation, and the substantial delays inherent in the court process.

And for some time now, the government has recognised the benefits of dispute resolution, and that it should be doing more of it.

As a result, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has established the Government Centre for Dispute Resolution (GCDR), a two year project to support the further development of dispute resolution.

Making better policy

Last year, our investigations and dispute resolution team leaders were selected to participate as members of the centre’s Officials’ Advisory Group - a panel made up of representatives of government agencies with dispute resolution expertise.

Before it established the advisory panel, the GCDR reviewed all of the statutes in New Zealand that allow for the use of dispute resolution, in some form or other. It discovered at least 60 statutes provide for dispute resolution services, and up to 200 contain some kind of reference to it.

It also found a wide variability in the way these provisions were interpreted and applied by government agencies (if they were even being used at all). The GCDR is now focused on helping New Zealand agencies achieve a level of consistency in this area.

Our input

Our participation in the advisory panel was concentrated largely on the development of the best dispute resolution principles. These are a set of key criteria that any good dispute resolution service should take into account.

The principles are based on common sense (such as being objective and fair, being client focused and ensuring you are accountable for what you do), and come with guidance about how to achieve these objectives at policy, service design, service delivery and practitioner levels.

We support the work being done by the GDCR and look forward to seeing what comes next for New Zealand and its dispute resolution services.

Image credit: Created by Ruth Suehle for opensource.com.

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  • Kia ora,

    Just like to send acknowledgements for the above article. I support and believe that disputes could be dealt with in a common sense manner and should be dealt with according to the policies of the business/organisation rather than straight to law.

    My concern is that policies are in place to deal with such issues regarding disputes/complaints but are ignored/breached so what could you possibly recommend in terms of assisting this process.

    Posted by Te Huinga Heurea, 25/02/2016 12:58pm (22 months ago)

    Post Reply

    The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

  • Kia Ora Te Huinga,

    if an organisation's policies are ignored or breached, the organisation is not fulfilling its obligations and leaving itself exposed when privacy and other complaints are made against it.

    For example, in this case, the Human Rights Review Tribunal decided in favour of the plaintiff because her workplace did not follow its own policies: https://privacy.org.nz/blog/ccdhb-follow-workplace-policy/

    This is one of the factors that regulators such as our office and bodies such as the Employment Relations Authority and the Human Rights Review Tribunal look at closely when disputes are brought to our attention.

    Charles

    Posted by Charles, 26/02/2016 9:03am (22 months ago)

    Post Reply

    The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

Post your comment

The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

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