Ombudsmen (Protection of Name) Amendment Bill passes third reading

The use of the term “Ombudsman” is now better protected following the third reading of an amendment to the Ombudsmen Act 1975.

“New Zealanders need to have confidence that the integrity of the office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman is preserved,” Justice Minister Andrew Little says.

“This Bill protects the value and mana of the Parliamentary Ombudsmen, and the unique place they hold in New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements.

As Officers of Parliament, the Ombudsmen are statutorily independent and provide accessible and impartial investigations of complaints by citizens about the conduct and decisions of government departments and agencies.

“A growing number of private sector entities are seeking to trade on the right of the authority of the office of the Ombudsman, and it is time to afford better protection to the name,” Andrew Little says.

The Bill restricts its use to a Parliamentary Ombudsman appointed under the Ombudsmen Act 1975, a person appointed to a position established by the Chief Ombudsman, such as that of Assistant Ombudsman or Deputy Ombudsman, or any public-sector department or organisation approved by the Minister of Justice. 

“This ensures that the Parliamentary Ombudsmen can continue to use the name within their office as appropriate. It also provides flexibility to public-sector departments or organisations, by enabling a public-sector dispute resolution body to be created through administrative restructuring and not just by statute,” says Andrew Little.

The Bill protects existing private sector entities who  have already been granted permission to use the name “Ombudsman”, as well as a private sector entity who has already applied to use the name and is awaiting a decision.