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Official Information

Official Information

The New Zealand government works for New Zealanders. This means that they have to give reasons for things that they do or decisions that they make. One of the ways that New Zealanders can request for these reasons is through a law called the Official Information Act (OIA). The OIA gives a way for people to get information that the government has about a certain topic, or how a decision was made.

Who can I get official information from?

You can ask for official information from the government and government bodies. This includes government departments like the Ministry of Justice or the Ministry of Education. It also covers other public institutions that perform duties on behalf of the government, like public schools and hospitals.

You can’t use the OIA to get information from private individuals or companies. You also can’t use the OIA to make a request to MPs, Courts and Tribunals.

What kind of official information can I ask for through an OIA?

You can get access to all kinds of different information through an OIA request, but when you’re requesting for the information, you need to be as specific as possible. An organisation/department is allowed to refuse to give you information if your question is too vague and they don’t know what information you actually want, or practically be unable to answer your question.

Can my information request under the Official Information Act be refused?

There are some kinds of information that a government organisation/department doesn’t have to provide to you. They can turn down your request if giving you the information:

  • Might affect/be bad for New Zealand’s national security or defence;
  • Might interfere with maintaining the law;
  • Would give you trade secrets or commercially confidential information;
  • Would interfere with the personal privacy of other people;
  • Might be bad for the health and safety of the public;
  • Could stop the government from being able to make decisions and get policy advice effectively;
  • That is connected to getting advice from a lawyer.

They also can refuse your request if your request is silly, ill-intentioned, or of little importance.

How do I make a request for official information?

All you have to do is ask the organisation or body for the information you want in writing. There’s no formal process that you have to follow, and you don’t even have to give a reason. You do have to be as specific as possible regarding the information you are requesting for, and let the organisation know precisely what you want because if your request is too vague, the body can refuse to give you information.

It is helpful and useful to say that you’re asking under the Official Information Act. You might want to use a line like “I would like to request the following information under the Official Information Act:”.

What is the cost to make an OIA request?

There’s no charge for making a request. But if you ask for something complicated or detailed, the organisation/department might be able to charge you a reasonable amount for the administration time and resource costs to obtain the information for you. For example, if you ask for hundreds of pages of information, they might charge you for printing or photocopying costs. Also, they may just allow you to access the information, and you will need to pay to make copies of the materials yourself.

When will I get the official information?

When you make a request for information under the OIA, the organisation/department has to give you the information you asked for within 20 working days. If your request is complicated, then organisation/department might be able to extend this time period. But if they do, they have to tell you about the extension and explain why it’s necessary.

What can I do if a government organisation won’t give me the information I want?

A government organisation/body can only refuse to give you the information you want for specific reasons.

If none of those reasons applies, and they still won’t give you the information, you can complain to the Ombudsman. You can also complain to the Ombudsman if the organisation doesn’t get back to you within the 20 working day time period, they charge you an unreasonable amount or they’re doing something else that is unreasonable.

For information on how to access private information about yourself, please click here.

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