What is official information?
Any information held by the Government, including:
- Ministers of the Crown in their official capacity
- Government departments and organisations
- Local authorities, territorial and regional councils and community boards
- State-owned enterprises
- Educational institutions, including Boards of Trustees
- Public hospitals.
Who may request official information?
Official information requests can be made to the NZDF under the Official Information Act 1982. Any New Zealand citizen or permanent resident, or anyone who is in New Zealand, can submit a request for official information.
How do I request official information?
To request official information, contact the Ministerial Services team.
Requests should be specific about the information that you want.
When will I receive the information I have requested?
You will receive a response to your request within 20 working days. This time limit may be extended for a reasonable period if a large amount of information is requested, or if your request involves searching through a large amount of information, or because consultation is required with other parties in order to make a proper decision. You will be informed in writing of the time extension and the reason for the extension.
In what form will the information be made available to me?
If the requested information is in a document, you may be provided with:
- a reasonable opportunity to inspect the document, or
- a copy of the document, or
- a written transcript (if the document is a recording), or
- an excerpt or summary of the document, or
- oral information about the contents of the document.
Can information be withheld?
- only if good reason exists under the Act for not releasing the information (see below)
- you must be told of the reason for the refusal/withholding of information
- you must be informed of your right to ask the Ombudsman to investigate the refusal.
What are the grounds for refusing a request / withholding information?
The reasons include:
- the national security or defence of New Zealand
- the maintenance of the law
- trade secrets and commercial confidentiality
- personal privacy
- legal professional privilege
- the health and safety of the public
- the effective conduct of the decision making and policy advice processes of government
- the administrative capacity of the organisation concerned to process a request.
Sometimes you may be given some, but not all, information requested, e.g. a document with sensitive parts deleted.
Will I have to pay for the information?
Under normal circumstances it will not cost you anything; however if the request is particularly large or time-consuming, or if the same individual submits numerous requests on the same topic, there may be a fee charged.
Can I complain about a decision?
Yes, you can complain to the Office of the Ombudsman (www.ombudsman.parliament.nz) if:
- you are refused access to any information
- the person handling your request does not reply to you within the time limit
- you are not happy with the length of an extended time limit
- you believe that you have been charged an unreasonable amount of the information
- you are not happy with the way the information has been made available or with any conditions placed on the use of the information.