07 May 2018

There is no specific format or style you need to use to make your request. You do not need to mention the Official Information Act (or OIA) to make a request.

What happens if I ask the wrong agency?

If we do not have the information you asked for and we think that another agency or Minister may have the information, we will transfer your request. We may also transfer your request if we believe the information you have asked for is more closely connected with the functions of another agency or Minister.

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.

What if you don’t understand my request?

If we do not understand your request, we will get in contact with you to clarify the information you want to receive.

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 us to respond.

How will you make a decision on a 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 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). They apply when release would harm a protected interest such as the maintenance of the law, personal privacy, confidentiality, or commercial interests.

Some reasons for withholding are subject to a ‘public interest test’ (section 9). As part of the decision on your request we will consider whether there are public interest considerations that mean we should release the information.  We will 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 have the right to complain to the Office of the Ombudsman about our decision to withhold information.

How long will it take?

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

If we need more time to make a 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. You can complain to the Office of the Ombudsman if you’re not happy with the 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.

When will charges apply?

We may charge you for the supply of information. 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 provides charging guidelines for OIAs.

You have the right to complain to the Office of the Ombudsman about the decision to charge, and the Office also has guidance on charging.

Will the response to 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 it intends to publish its response to your request (including any enclosed documents) on its website.  Your personal information (for example your name and contact details) and any other information that may identify you will be removed from the published version. 

What if I’m not satisfied?

You may wish to contact us directly 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 a decision and may make a recommendation to the Commission if it is considered appropriate.