NSW government agencies, including local councils are required to release information as set out in the GIPA Act. 'Government information' means information contained in a record held by an agency. 'A record' means any document or other source of information compiled, recorded or stored in written form or by electronic process, or in any other manner or by any other means. The knowledge of a person is not a record.
Ways to get government information
There are four ways in which government information will be available:
- Mandatory release: This generally includes information found on this website, such as the Council's policy documents, current publication guide, disclosure log and register of government contracts.
- Proactive release: These are additional documents that are made available to the public on this website.
- Informal release: This is for specific information. Under the GIPA Act, Council can choose to release information without the need for a formal access application. Access via this path may be subject to reasonable conditions such as photocopying charges. Please complete an Application to Access Information Form and submit to Council.
- Formal access application: If you haven't been able to obtain the information you need through any other form of access you can make a formal access application. Unlike an informal request, you have a legally enforceable right to be provided with access unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure of the information. An application fee of $30 applies and additional processing charges may be payable. Please complete an Application to Access Information Form and submit to Council with the application fee.
Formal GIPA applications
A formal application must:
- be in writing
- state that it is made under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW)
- have an Australian postal address for return correspondence
- provide enough details to help the agency identify the information you want, and
- enclose the application fee of $30.
If Council decides to provide you with access to the information, you may be asked to pay a further processing charge. Processing costs $30 per hour and covers time needed to deal efficiently with the application. Council will require you to pay up to 50 per cent of the expected processing charge in advance. This request will be in writing and will allow four weeks for payment. If you seek access to your own personal information, the first 20 hours of processing time are free of charge.
Applicants may be entitled to a 50% reduction of processing charges on financial hardship grounds, or if the information requested is of special benefit to the public generally. In order to apply, supporting documentation (such as a healthcare card) needs to be attached to the application. Alternatively, the scope of the search can be amended in order to reduce fees.
The steps you can expect with relation to a formal GIPA application are as follows:
- Council has 5 days to determine whether you have made a valid application and to send an acknowledgement of your application. If Council decides your application is invalid it will provide you with reasonable assistance to make a valid application.
- Council will search its records for any relevant information that may pertain to your requested scope. If applicable, Council will then send you a cost estimate and request an advance deposit.
- Council may need to consult other people, businesses or government bodies in order to ascertain if the information can be released. When consultation is completed, Council will provide you with the information unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure (public interest test) or the information is excluded.
- Applications take 20 days to process, though this may be extended in the event that Council is required to consult with third parties prior to the release of information, if your response to Council’s estimate of charges is pending. If Council does not decide your access application within 20 days, unless otherwise agreed, it is considered "refused". Your application fee will be refunded and you may seek internal or external review of this refusal.
Refusal of your request by Council
Council can refuse your formal request if:
- the information you have asked for is already publicly available
- you have not paid a deposit
- your request would take an unreasonable amount of time to process, or
- there is an overriding public interest against disclosure.
You have three options if you have been refused a formal access to information request:
- Internal review: You can apply to Council for an internal review. The review will be conducted by someone more senior than the original decision maker. There is a $40 fee and you have 20 working days from receiving notice of a decision to ask for an internal review.
- Review by the Information Commissioner: If you are not satisfied with the internal review, or do not want one, you can ask for a review by the Information Commissioner. You have eight weeks from being notified of a decision to ask for this review.
- Review at the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT): If you are not satisfied with the decision of the Information Commissioner or the internal reviewer or if you do not want to take these options you can apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (NCAT). If you have already had a review by the Information Commissioner you have four weeks from notification of the decision to make this application. If you haven't had a review by the Information Commissioner you have eight weeks from notification of the decision to make this application.