Official Information Requests
Under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 (LGOIMA) any person may request information from Council.
Requests can be made verbally including by telephone call, or by writing or emailing the local authority concerned. The request must be reasonably specific and it is therefore recommended that a written request be made to avoid any confusion or argument as to what was requested. No reason for the request has to be given unless the information is wanted urgently. Information must be made available within twenty working days. However, Council is able to request for an extension of time. If the requester considers a delay unreasonable, a complaint can be made to the Ombudsman's Office.
Any request for information is a request made under LGOIMA. Once a request is made Council must supply the information unless reason exists for withholding it. The LGOIMA states that information may be withheld if release of the information would:
- endanger the safety of any person
- prejudice maintenance of the law
- compromise the privacy of any person
- reveal confidential or commercially sensitive information
- cause offence to tikanga Maori or would disclose the location of waahi tapu
- prejudice public health or safety
- compromise legal professional privilege
- disadvantage the local authority while carrying out negotiations or commercial activities
- allow information to be used for improper gain or advantage
If Council does not have the information but believe another local authority, organisation, or Government Department might, they must pass on the request to that organisation, within ten (10) days of receiving the request. Clarification of requests must be requested within seven (7) working days, if the amended request is to be treated as a new request.
Legislation therefore permits a local authority to consider various courses of action when handling a request for information:
- Supply the information requested
- Transfer the request to another authority or agency should the information requested belong to that other agency or authority
- Refuse to supply the information pursuant to reasons specified within the Act
- Not able to locate the information or collate it without unreasonable cost.
Council must answer requests within twenty (20) working days (although there are certain circumstances where this time-frame may be extended). Council may charge for official information under guidelines set down by the Ministry of Justice.
Under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (section 13) agencies can impose a reasonable charge to recover some of the costs of making the information available. Requests relating to personal information are not charged for. Photocopying costs can also be charged.
Western Bay of Plenty District Council will consider each request and determine whether the time involved in extracting the information warrants charging. In any case, Council’s fees and charges is that it will not charge for the first hour of time involved. After that, a charge of $38 per half hour may be made plus photocopying costs. Council’s charges are inline with advice provided by the Office of the Ombudsman.
Refusal of Requests for Information
Information must be made available unless there is a good reason, as set out in the LGOIMA 1987 or Privacy Act 2020, for not releasing it. Reasons for any refusal must be given. The Ombudsman has the right to investigate and review decisions made about the release of official information on complaint.
There is a public duty on a local authority to observe any recommendation made by the Ombudsman unless the local authority chooses to do otherwise by resolution within 20 working days after the recommendation was made.
Individuals have the right to ask for any information about themselves without charge.
The right of access to personal information is governed by the Privacy Act 2020 and there are fewer reasons for withholding personal information. The local authority can be asked to correct information that is inaccurate or incomplete or misleading. If the local authority believes that its information is accurate, it must nevertheless note on its file an objection has been made and the reasons for it.
Council appoints a Privacy Officer as required under the Privacy Act who deals with requests for personal information and issues concerning personal information generally. This staff member also ensures that official information requests are responded to within legislative timeframes and in accordance with Council policy and process guidelines.
Please contact Council’s Privacy Officer if you want to talk about privacy or official information issues on 07 571 8008.