Electronic Communications (E-mail Quarantine) Policy

The Electronic Communications (E-mail Quarantine) Policy was adopted by Council on 11 October 2017 and came into effect on 12 October 2017.

The purpose of this policy is to ensure Council staff and elected members are protected from inappropriate e-mail correspondence whilst ensuring Council has robust processes around the quarantining of e-mails and to ensure it is transparent in how it applies the policy. This policy applies to all e-mail correspondence to and from Council’s e-mail domain (including Aquatics and Library Services) whether solicited or not.

The policy provides clear guidelines on steps for staff to follow if they receive inappropriate emails, guidance on what is or isn’t a breach of the policy, and a clear process to be followed if email correspondence is inappropriate, including notification to the email sender of quarantine and timelines for review of a quarantine.

Emails to councillors are not subject to the policy, and if any are accidentally quarantined, they will be released immediately. However, councillors can ask for assistance from Council IT staff to block or otherwise deal with emails from any specific email address if they choose.

A quarantine means any email received by Council from the quarantined sender will be reviewed by a senior officer. Depending on the content it may be forwarded in full to the intended recipient, forwarded with inappropriate content removed, summarised and forwarded, or ignored if it contains no legitimate content.

Download Electronic Communications (E-mail Quarantine) Policy(PDF, 544KB)

Background

The policy was created following a resolution by the Council’s Finance, Audit and Risk Subcommittee to develop a policy framework designed to protect staff and others with a Council email address from inappropriate emails.

The resolution came about because a quarantine practice had been occurring without a policy in place. Between 2011 and 2017 some email traffic from a small number of residents to Council staff and councillors was intercepted, and not delivered to the intended recipients.

The practice was implemented with good intentions – to protect the health and safety of Council officers and elected members. However, in August 2017, Council stopped the practice, following complaints from several residents to the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman investigated the complaints and found no basis to suggest Council used its email quarantining process to interfere with or obstruct iwi negotiations, Resource Management Act submission processes, local election processes or Environment Court proceedings – these were the concerns raised by the complainants. However, the Ombudsman did find that Council acted unreasonably by:

a. adding the five complainants to the quarantine list without reasonable or identifiable grounds;

b. failing to take steps to review the status of two of the individuals on the quarantine list for over four years; and,

c. operating a previous emailing quarantine practice, without a clear policy, that ran contrary to the principles of transparency, accountability and fairness.

Council has accepted the conclusion of the Ombudsman’s report and apologised unreservedly to the affected individuals.