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Review Of The 1982 Official Information Act In New Zealand.

1378 words - 6 pages

The Official Information Act 1982The stated aim of the Official Information Act 1982:To increase progressively the availability of official information to the people of New Zealand in order--To enable their more effective participation in the making and administration of laws and policies; andTo promote the accountability of Ministers of the Crown and officials,--and thereby to enhance respect for the law and to promote the good government of New Zealand:To provide for proper access by each person to official information relating to that person:To protect official information to the extent consistent with the public interest and the preservation of personal privacy.The Scope of the Official Information Act 1982The Official Information Act (OIA) governs the disclosure of official information held by central and local government departments to the public. It does not compel officials to withhold information but does give them the power to do so. Official information in this context is information held by any agencies subject to the Act. A member of the public may request information from a government department under the OIA and unless there is a valid reason to not give this information the government department in question must supply the required information within 20 working days. If they can not fulfil the request in this time they must contact the member of public who requested the information and inform them of the delay. OIA requests can only be denied if the release of the requested information would threaten national security, seriously damage the economy, endanger a person's safety, damage our relationship with other countries, or prejudice the maintenance of the law. It is the function of the Ombudsmen to investigate any complaints made by a person about the way their OIA request was handled.What is "information"?The Act does not define information. It applies to information held by a person, department or organisation that is subject to the Act. "Document" is defined in section 2 of the Act as including physical or electronic means of storing information. This definition covers paper documents as well as videotapes, audio recordings, and information contained within a computer. The Courts have ruled in some cases that "information" also includes information held in a person's memory. Other cases have ruled that information as it relates to the Act must be in a physical format. The Ombudsman takes the former viewpoint.What is "information held"?The Act specifically refers to "information held." That is, with one exception, nothing in the Act requires the creation of new information. For example, if someone asks a government department to produce a plan for how a particular issue might be dealt with, they can reply that such information does not exist. The one exception to the rule to the right a person has to ask for a statement of reasons for a decision that has affected them in their personal capacity. If a person asks for a...

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