Management of liability

This page has information for government agencies about how to manage liability when using land information to provide advice, products and services. 

Policy

Agencies involved in using land information to provide advice, products and services to the community or supplying land information to external parties will identify the Northern Territory Government’s potential exposure to any liability whatsoever as a result of these activities. 

In addition, it will introduce appropriate measures, in accordance with approved guidelines, to minimise such liability.

Definitions

Liability is a legal creation designed to support a range of social outcomes such as avoidance of injurious behaviour, fulfilment of contractual obligations and the distribution of losses to those responsible for them.

External Party means any individual, company or organisation external to the NT Government, whether in the public, private or academic sectors of the community.

Responsibility

Chief executives shall have responsibility for implementation of this policy.

All Northern Territory Government officers involved in the management and use of corporate land information are responsible for the application of this policy.

Implementation

Implementation of this policy shall be through guidelines developed and maintained by the Location Intelligence Group and distributed to all relevant agencies.

These guidelines will be consistent with general Northern Territory Government policy on liability, will require the use of any approved mandatory liability statements and will address:

  • how exposure to liability can arise
  • sources of risk
  • approaches to management of exposure
  • the preferred approach to be applied in the NT Government, including use of product specific liability statements and quality assurance processes.

Background

There is growing concern that governments may be liable for losses or damage resulting from the use of government land information resources by clients, or for advice provided by government employees based on interpretation of such land information.

Liability can arise from:

  • breach of contract
  • torts
  • privacy
  • infringement of copyright, trademarks
  • the trade practices act.

There has long been recognition of the potential risk of liability. 

However, the traditional responses have consisted of general disclaimers and statements of qualification attached to information, products and advice.

There is some doubt as to the legal validity of the general disclaimer approach given that a client should be able to expect a duty of care from the supplier in provision of a product, service or advice.  

Product specific disclaimers are likely to be more legally valid.

In addition, the relevance of such a negative approach should be questioned in a modern environment wherein:

  • the ability to easily access, integrate and use diverse digital data sets is growing rapidly
  • land information is being made available on-line to anyone who wants to access it
  • the community is increasingly resorting to litigation in response to perceived loss or damage
  • governments are actively supporting greater access to land information by industry and the community
  • over-cautious, negative approaches are likely to inhibit the growing land information industry.

The preferred alternative is to supplement the use of disclaimers with a pro-active and client-oriented approach to risk management of liability incorporating:

  • quality assurance processes
  • product information and certification
  • application of industry standards
  • introduction of a code of best practice
  • education of government staff providing products, services and advice
  • education of clients so that they can make informed choices.

Principles

Government should acknowledge its rights and responsibilities regarding liability and seek to manage the risk through positive and pro-active administrative measures designed to support industry and the community.

Last updated: 18 April 2016