24 February 2022

People in New Zealand can request government information (official information) and can expect it to be made available unless there is a good reason to withhold it.

The Official Information Act 1982 (or OIA) enables citizens, permanent residents, visitors to New Zealand, and body corporates registered or with a place of business in New Zealand, to make a request for official information held by government agencies, including Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission (the Commission).

Before making a request for information

The Commission is committed to supporting the principles of the Public Service Act 2020 and Official Information Act 1982 (OIA), by promoting open government and increasing the availability of information and the internal processes used to prepare information for publication. Found here is the Commission's Proactive Release of Official Information - Internal Policy(PDF, 197 KB) which sets down the principles and processes to be followed when we consider proactively releasing information.

Information considered for proactive release includes:

  • formal advice to the Minister of the Public Service
  • titles of advice provided to the Minister of the Public Service
  • OIA responses and information that has been released by the Commission to an individual requester under the OIA
  • any other information released by the Chief Executive, such as research reports or publications, information published in response to public interest, and information that is regularly requested from the Commission under the OIA.

Before requesting official information from the Commission, we encourage you to check out the sources of information below as you may find the information you need is already publicly available:

Making a Request

You do not need to mention the OIA to make a request.   Your request should be as clear and specific as you can possibly make it.

You can contact us in a number of ways to request information:

You need to provide:

  • your name
  • contact address (email or postal)
  • details of the information you want
  • details of the timeframes of the information you want

We may contact you if we need to understand in more detail, what you are looking for.

If you make your request by phone or in person, we will obtain contact details from you and confirm your request in writing to ensure we have captured correctly the information you are seeking.

What can I request?

The Official Information Act (OIA) sets out your rights to request official information.  ‘Official Information’ means any information held by the agency including:

  • Reports, memos, letters, notes, advice and emails
  • Materials like tape recordings, videos or computer records and
  • Internal policies or guidelines for decision making
  • Reasons for decisions made about you.

Can I request information about myself?

As an individual you can request information about yourself.  Requests for personal information are processed under the Privacy Act.  You can find more information about privacy requests form the Privacy Commissioner.  We will always make sure to tell you whether have responded to your request under the OIA and/or the Privacy Act.

How do I know the right agency to contact?

The Ministry of Justice’s Directory of Official Information outlines information held by different agencies. 

If we do not have the information you have asked for, and we think that another agency or Minister may have the information, we will transfer your request to them.   

We will do this promptly and within 10 working days, although it is possible to extend this timeframe in certain circumstances. 

We will let you know if we have transferred your request and who we have transferred it to.   

Can I request information in a specific format?

You can ask for information to be provided to you in a specific format.  For example, you can ask for oral information to be provided to you or to review information in person (inspect files).  You can also ask for the information to be provided in an electronic or paper format.

If we are unable to provide it in the way you have requested, we will explain why, and you can make a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman if you are dissatisfied.

What happens if I need to change my request?

If you would like to change your request, then you can get in contact with us and ask to make a change.  If you do change your request, we will let you know whether this will impact on the time it will take to respond.

How will you make a decision on my request?

We will find all the information you have asked for and review it carefully.  In order to make a decision on your request, we may need to consult with other agencies or people who might be affected by release of the information.

When will information be withheld? 

We will make the information you request available unless there is a reason why we are unable to do so (for example, the information isn’t held or can’t be found) or there is ‘good reason’ for withholding it.

Reasons for withholding are specified in the legislation (section 6 and section 9).  As part of our decision on your request, we will consider whether there are public interest considerations that mean we should release the information.    We will then balance the public interest against the harms that we see from release of the information.  If the public interest is greater than the harm, then the information will be released. 

When we withhold information, we will tell you which part of the OIA applies.

You can make a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman  if you are dissatisfied with our decision.

How long will it take?

We will acknowledge your request and are required by law to give you our decision on your request as soon as possible, and no later than 20 working days after we receive your request.

If we need more time to make our decision on your request, for example if you are requesting a lot of information, we will let you know and give you an idea of how long it will take. We will also try to keep you updated on the progress of our response to your request.  You can complain to the Office of the Ombudsman  if you’re not happy with our decision to extend the time.

You can see data on the number of requests we receive each year and the timeliness of our responses: Official Information Act Statistics.

What does it cost?

Requesting official information is free, though we can charge a reasonable amount if it will take a lot of work to supply the information requested.   These charges must be reasonable, and may reflect some of the cost of labour (including to retrieve and collect the information) and materials in meeting your request).  

The Ministry of Justice and the Office of the Ombudsman  both have guidance on charging. 

You can complain to the Office of the Ombudsman about our decision to charge.

Will my request be published on the Commission’s website?

We will consider publishing our response to your official information request where the information is believed to be of interest to the wider public and is suitable for publication more generally.

We will let you know if we intend to publish our response to your request (including any enclosed documents) on our website.  Your personal information (for example your name and contact details) and any other information that may identify you, will be removed form the published version.

What if I’m not satisfied?

You may wish to contact us in the first instance to see if we can resolve the issue.

You can make a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman if you:

  • have concerns regarding the decision we made on your request
  • were unhappy about the way your request was treated or processed.

These concerns can relate to the withholding of information, extending the timeframe to respond to you, any charges for providing the information you have requested, delays in providing you with a decision or the information, or your request being transferred.

The Office of the Ombudsman can investigate and review our decision and may make a recommendation to us if it is considered appropriate.