3 Aug 2015

Relationships Aotearoa files now 'secured' '

9:18 am on 3 August 2015

The liquidator of Relationships Aotearoa says thousands of sensitive client files are now safe, after a blogger posted images of them in boxes apparently left unsecured in the service's now-empty Christchurch office.

Relationships Aotearoa, the country's oldest counselling service, closed in June after it failed to reach an agreement with the Government over funding.

The closure raised privacy concerns about the thousands of client files, containing personal information, held in offices around the country.

In her blog, freelance journalist Beck Eleven posted pictures of about 40 boxes which she says contained confidential files, which were left in the counselling service's former Bealey Avenue office.

Ms Eleven said her uncle and owner of the building Les Rawlings told her about the documents.

When she arrived at the building last Tuesday, all the doors were unlocked, with the documents easily accessible, she said.

But Mr Rawlings yesterday clarified that he had opened the door to the files about 30 minutes before liquidator PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was due to arrive to pick them up.

The front door of the office had, however, been found unlocked by a realtor about a week after Relationships Aotearoa closed, Mr Rawlings said.

Ms Eleven said anyone could have gained access to the files if the main door was left unlocked, despite the documents being in a secured room.

"The offices are on a busy corner of Christchurch in a city where abandoned buildings are home to rough sleepers, especially since the quakes. Anyone could have knocked the door in," she said.

Pablo Godoy, Relationship Aotearoa's former director of operations in the South Island, said he "absolutely" locked the main office door when he left.


John Fisk from PwC said he told all landlords the documents were confidential, and he was disappointed a journalist was given access to the files.

When the counselling service closed "we were assured that all the records were secure at that time," he said.

Mr Fisk said he told all landlords the files would be picked up, and not to give access to anyone as the documents were confidential.

All landlords except Mr Rawlings were helpful, Mr Fisk said.

Mr Rawlings said he was upset because the office was being used as a storage facility but he wasn't getting paid for it.

"Under the lease everything in the building becomes mine as from a month ago. I told them if they paid the two months storage they could have everything.

"But they didn't want to pay any rent and they only wanted to cherry pick what they wanted out of the place," he said.

Mr Fisk said there was no way the records could ever become the property of the landlords.

"They still belong to the organisation - we're in charge of dealing with that business and we've been trying for many weeks to recover those records."

He said all Relationships Aotearoa's client files were now secured.

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