Other people OIA the Reserve Bank too

Occasionally I have a look at the Reserve Bank’s website page on which they post selected OIA responses.  This time I was just checking to see whether a response I got yesterday –  after 2.5 months, and still only partial –  was there (it wasn’t).  But I spotted this response to someone else, released last Friday

Dear …..

On 12 December 2017 the Reserve Bank received a request from you, via http://www.fyi.org.nz and pursuant to section 12 of the Official Information Act 1982 (the OIA), asking:

In the recent recruitment process to appoint a new Governor of RBNZ (which resulted in the Board recommending to the Minister of Finance that Adrian Orr be appointed as Governor), please advise: 1. How many of the total applicants/individuals considered for the role were: a) women; or b) non-Pakeha; or c) both.

2. What was the total number of applicants/individuals considered?

3. If there is a shortlisting process, how many of the individuals who were included on that shortlist were: a) women; or b) non-Pakeha; or c) both.

4. If there was a shortlisting process, how many individuals were included on the shortlist in total?


The Reserve Bank is declining your request, as allowed by section 9(2)(a) of the OIA, in order to protect the privacy of the candidates considered for the role of Governor.

Given the nature of the process and the final pool of candidates, releasing the information that you have requested is likely to identify people who were considered but not appointed – which is private information.

In other words, they refused to release any of this information at all.

Which should be pretty extraordinary really.   The Board’s defence is that they are withholding the information to protect the privacy of candidates.    But they ran a search process that included a public advertisement inviting applications.  I suspect they had several dozen applications, some less serious than others.   How could anyone’s privacy be breached by releasing the total number of applicants (plus the number of any people the Board themselves put directly into the mix)?     How could anyone’s privacy possibly be breached if it were known that three women and three “non-Pakeha” had applied (we know there was at least one in the latter category, since Adrian Orr has some Cook Islands ancestry)?  And how could anyone’s privacy be breached by revealing how many people were on the shortlist?

I’m a little more sympathetic in respect of question 3.  If there was, say, one woman on the shortlist, that might reasonably invite some speculation as to who, but even then it is hard to see how –  in a universe of say 1.5 million adult women in New Zealand –  a person’s privacy could have been breached.  And, given that the Bank has been notoriously weak (for whatever reason) in appointing women to senior positions, it might have been somewhat reassuring to the public that one (or more) women had made the shortlist.   As it is, we know there was at least one “non-Pakeha” in the list since –  as the Board tells the requester later in the letter –  Orr is quite open about the Cook Islands aspect of his heritage, and if perchance there was more than one “non-Pakeha” on the shortlist it is still hard to see how any one specific person’s privacy would have been jeopardised.

But in a sense, the really interesting bit of the letter is the final paragraph of the extract above.  It is factually false for one thing (names of people the Board considered are official information –  not private information –  even if protected from disclosure by the “privacy of natural persons” section of the Official Information Act).  But, if the Board is to be taken at its word.

releasing the information that you have requested is likely to identify people who were considered but not appointed

They don’t say “invite speculation on possible names” but “likely to identify people”. It is hard to imagine how it could do so –  reasoning outlined earlier – unless the shortlist included the name of a “non-Pakeha” woman (the subset of potentially credible candidates fitting this description seems likely to be very small indeed).   But even if it did, it would require a wider knowledge and a richer imagination than mine to guess –  let alone “identify” – who such a person might have been.

I rather doubt the Board should be taken at its word on this point –  rather they probably just didn’t want to release anything and waved their hands to construct a defence –  but if any readers do want to take them at their word, I’d welcome suggestions as to who the person might have been.

11 thoughts on “Other people OIA the Reserve Bank too

  1. The correct reply should have been “Unable to answer since gender and ethnicity are not part of our selection process so we don’t record it”.

    Last week I was stopped and asked to complete a survey form about potential improvements in my local shopping centre. I understood why they asked my age and what local services I used and how frequently they were used and how I would like them improved but they also asked for ethnic origin. Now this either is irrelevant or my council plans to weigh the answers and opinions based on ethnicity. If the latter then they would be breaking NZ law. A South African born friend always answers ‘Maori’ (he likes to screw the system) and another friend always answers ‘European’ (he is 1/16th Maori but worries that if his young daughter identified as Maori she would stop doing her school work).


  2. I have some sympathy (and ethnicity might well not be easily discernible from applications). Having said that they wouldn’t even say (a) how many applications they had had in total, or (b) how many were on the short list. And, as regards the Bank, gender is getting to be something that reasonable people will shortly ask questions about


    • In a role where you have face to face interactions with groups that rightly or wrongly believe themselves to be discriminated against it makes sense to employ people from the same groups so I have no problem with selection influenced by gender and ethnicity for police, primary teachers, social workers, probation officers, health workers but we really are in a sad society if a candidate for an elitist job such as our top RBNZ official is chosen by anything other than a demanding review of past experience.

      Have we progressed in the last 150 years? In 1968 when Disreali became prime minister of Britain nobody was saying he was selected to appease some ethnic balance.

      PS. I’m on record as suggesting Katherine Moody for governor. I’m missing the clarity of her comments.


      • I agree that sex is not, and should not be, a relevant criterion in the selection of a Governor. But I also recognise that in a powerful public sector institution, with a high public profile and pervasive impact, in this era it isn’t necessarily inappropriate that questions should be asked to understand why, after 84 years there has never been a women appointed to a policy or operational senior management position (Governors, or heads of economics, financial markets, macrofinanancial stability, prudential regulation, or even notes and coins). For years, I defended those outcomes as mostly reflecting preferences (far more men end up doing macro and finance – and far more women do health and social economics etc), and I still think there is something to that story, but I’m no longer convinced it is enough of an explanation – substantively or politically. After all, Janet Yellen has just stepped down, and the RBA has two pretty impressive female Assistant Governors.


      • Personally I have always had a problem working for women as they tend to overcompensate for their respective shortfalls. It is human nature to make mistakes but women in top positions just go nuts defending their turf and when it gets too hard they start crying and look for a shoulder to cry on. It gets rather embarrassing. I worry that if I gave them a hug that would consititute sexual advances by me. And no one would believe me if I complained that I have been harrassed by all this crying.


      • Katherine Moody as Governor?? I recall a discussion on Phil Twyford intent on abusing the Public Works Act to seize property by attaching a label to property owners that he would decide, Nazi style, to label as landbankers and seize the properties of mum and dad property owners for his Kiwibuild and she replied that these landbankers deserve that sort of treatment as there are huge lots held by so called landbankers. When I asked her to provide a list of possible large lot landbankers she declined even at an attempt to give us a list of large landbankers to justify her own comments in support of Phil Twyfords stick a label on a persons forehead and seize their property Nazi style. Not exactly the best attributes of a RB governor is it?


    • Surely it is against the Human Rights Act to ask for race, creed, colour, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, age, and even gender on an application form. Not that I imagine there is a form for this type of roll, and any and all candidates are likely to have a linkedin profile so that a photo and most information could be gleaned from there.

      For my money I appreciate a meritocracy and on this basis Adrian Orr seems to be a very good appointment.


      • I don’t think it is against the law to ask (after all, school enrolment forms etc do it all the time), only to use the information to influence the specific appointment decision. The argument is about ‘statistical purposes’, and – i suppose – spotting whether there are any possible systematic biases (or reluctance to apply) emerging.

        I’m also keen on a purely merit-based selection. Whether Adrian is really the best there was – or, even if he was, reaches the standard the position calls for – is more of an open question to my mind. I wrote about some of the issues late last year https://croakingcassandra.com/2017/12/12/adrian-orr-as-governor-designate/ and will come back to the issue in the next couple of weeks.


  3. If an executive position is canvassed in terms of task-orientation versus 180 degree opposite people-orientation (with 178 grey-shades in between) do we need Adrian-Chainsaw-Orr or do we need Adrian-Status-Quo-Orr. Should we be looking for Agent-of-Change or Hold-the-Line. Wondering if we will be seeing a sweep-clean situation


    • What we do need is a Governor that is prepared to ensure that our NZ economy continues to grow with plenty of jobs to ensure that Kiwis are living happy, healthy and productive lives.

      We do not need inflation busting nutcases that would bust inflation at the cost of decimating the NZ economy, decimating businesses and decimation jobs. We cannot have a repeat of 2007 to 2009 when the RB governor Alan Bollard had a blind focus on inflation targetting to the extent of engineering a destruction of the NZ economy prior to the GFC approaching our shores

      We also cannot have a major disaster like Christchurch that could have been properly funded by a mini QE of say $50 billion. A RB governor that had an understanding of the US trillion dollar QE would have seen a small window of opportunity for NZ to fund the Christchurch earthquake without the government having to draw that out of normal operating costs and normal taxation coffers leading to lack of funding for all government departments.

      Just because HSBC chief economist and a number of ridiculous economists that decided that NZ was going to be a Rockstar economy in a disaster recovery is just plain nutcase economics. Instead we get RB Governor, Graeme Wheeler with 4 interest rate increases in the middle of a major disaster recovery and the resulting higher and higher NZD and until today, Christchurch residents have tilted houses and damaged infrastructure. We also now have a EQC that has no money after for the next disaster that comes along. These are some of the very long term victim impact of poor RBNZ decisions.


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