Freedom of Information

You have a right to access any record held by a public authority unless it is exempt under the Law.

What we can help you with

  • Understanding your right to access Government information.
  • Getting a fair, impartial and independent investigation, mediation and decision of your appeal under the FOI Law.
  • Ensuring Government openness, transparency and accountability under the Law.

Did you know?

Over half of the 5,000 FOI requests made to date were granted in full or in part.

Before you come to us

We can only accept an appeal if you've made a request for information, which has been refused and you've requested an internal review of the decision.

If your appeal is about access to Government-held information, make sure you've made a request to a public authority and asked for an internal review (usually after 30 calendar days).

What to expect

We'll explain your rights under the Law.

If we have the legal authority, we'll open an appeal file, conduct a fair and impartial investigation, and try to resolve the matter by mediation or make an independent, binding decision about Government's response to your request.

I'm ready to make an Appeal

If you are not satisfied by the response you have received from a public authority, or believe they have failed to comply with an obligation under the FOI Law, you can make an appeal.

Download the Appeal Form

Frequently asked questions

If you have a question, the answer may already be here for you.

Who can request information under the FOI Law?

Anyone can request information under the Freedom of Information Law, regardless of their nationality, physical location or age.

Who should I address my request to?

You should direct your request to the Information Manager (IM) of the public authority that you believe holds the records. You can find out who the IM is by:

If you wish, you may use the standard FOI Request Form

If you make your request to the wrong public authority, the Law requires the IM to transfer your request within 14 days to the public authority that holds the record(s) or whose functions are more closely connected with the subject matter of your request.

What qualifies as a request for information under the FOI Law?

In order for your request to qualify as a request under the FOI Law it must:

  • be made in writing, which includes email
  • contain enough information to enable the public authority to identify the records

You do not need to mention the FOI Law, but it may help to do so.

What information can I request?

You can ask for any information the Government holds. In some cases the Government may legitimately withhold information from you because there are certain limited exemptions from disclosure under the FOI Law. Government may also defer disclosure of certain information.

For more on exemptions, see sections 15 to 25 of the FOI Law.

Is there a difference between asking for 'records' and 'information'?

You should try and make your request for a 'record', if possible. If you don’t know what record to ask for, you should seek assistance from the Information Manager (IM) you are dealing with. The IM has a duty to communicate with you and help you refine your request.

A proper request for records would be: “I want access to the travel receipts for the month of December”.

An poor request would be: “I want to know how much Government spent on travel in December?”.

The FOI Law grants a right to obtain access to records. A record is defined as 'information held in any form'. This includes a record in writing, a map, plan, graph or drawing, a photograph, a disk tape, sound track, any film, etc.

Can I make an anonymous request?

Yes, you have to supply a name when you make a request or an appeal, but it does not have to be your real name. You can ask that a copy of the records be sent to an email address without revealing your real name.  If you ask for your own personal information you cannot make your request anonymously - you will need to show proof of identity.

You can also download the Appeal Request Form, however use of this form is not mandatory. 

Do I have to tell the Government why I want the information?

No, you do not have to give any reasons why you want the information or how you intend to use it. In some cases background information you can provide may assist the Information Manager in locating the records you have requested. Some background information may also assist the public authority and the Ombudsman in determining the public interest.

How quickly must the Government respond to my request?

A public authority must acknowledge your request within 10 calendar days, and reply within 30 calendar days. If the request has to be transferred to another public authority, the transfer itself must be completed within 14 calendar days, and the second public authority then has 30 calendar days from the date of the transfer.

The initial 30-day period can be extended for good cause by a further 30 calendar days.

What should the Government include in the response I receive?

When the Information Manager gives you the public authority’s initial decision, the reply should:

  • provide the records (if any are held) that were requested in full or in part, with the legal reasons for any entire records or parts of records that are being withheld
  • include the options available to you, e.g. whether and how you can request an internal review or an appeal to the Ombudsman

If the public authority does not hold any records relevant to your request, this should be stated in the decision. The search efforts that were made should be explained to you.

What if the Government doesn't respond to my request?

If you do not get an acknowledgment of your request within 10 calendar days, and you do not know if your request has been received, you could contact the person you made the request to. If you do not get a response to your request within 30 calendar days, you should contact the Information Manager and ask for an internal review. Under the FOI Law a non-response is the same as a refusal to grant access. Therefore, you are entitled to ask that the responsible Chief Officer conduct an internal review.

If you request an internal review, and it is not conducted within 30 calendar days, you are entitled to appeal the request to the Ombudsman.

What can I do if I'm not satisfied with the response from the Government?

The FOI Law grants the general public a right to access Government records. However, there are a number of valid reasons why public authorities may withhold a record. Many records are fully or partially exempted, and you are entitled to know exactly what the legal reason is for withholding a record or part of a record. If you do not believe a record should be withheld, you are entitled to ask the Information Manager for an internal review of the decision. An internal review must be completed within 30 calendar days by the Chief Officer responsible for the public authority.

If you are not satisfied with the decision of the Chief Officer’s internal review, you can appeal to the Office of the Ombudsman. In some circumstances you can appeal directly to the Office of the Ombudsman, without an internal review. If at any time you have any questions about this process, contact the Office of the Ombudsman and we will point you in the right direction.

If your complaint is not about accessing Government information, you should consider making a customer service complaint, or complaining under the Complaints (Maladministration) Law.  Learn more about the Office of the Ombudsman's own internal complaint policy. 

How do I appeal to the Office of the Ombudsman?

The Office of the Ombudsman can only accept an appeal under the FOI Law when all other avenues have been exhausted. This normally means that first you have to ask for an internal review as described above, before you can make an appeal with the Ombudsman. Your request for an appeal with the Ombudsman needs to be in writing.

When you make an appeal we will ask you for copies of the following documentation

  • your initial request
  • the public authority’s initial decision
  • your request for an internal review
  • the Chief Officer’s internal review decision
  • any records that were disclosed to you, including redacted records

We will review your documentation and confirm whether we can accept an appeal under the Law or not. See our Appeal Policy and Practical Guidelines for more information

 

Do I need a lawyer to file an Appeal with the Ombudsman?

No, it is entirely up to you if you wish to use legal representation. You will be liable for all your own legal costs.

The Government must show that it fulfilled its obligations under the Law. Therefore, applicants are not required to file complex legal arguments, although you will have an opportunity to state your position if the appeal reaches the formal hearing stage.

How long does an appeal to the Ombudsman take?

The duration of an appeal will depend on a number of factors, including whether it can be resolved informally or whether it proceeds to a formal hearing.

Where can I find the formal decisions made under the FOI Law?

The formal decisions can be found here