Official Information Act 1982 (OIA)

What is Official Information?

Official Information is any information held by the Government, including Ministers of the Crown in their official capacity, Government departments and Ministries, including the Ministry of Social Development. Official Information can include written documents and reports, electronic files and manuals, e-mails and letters as well as information on other people. Recent responses to OIA requests can be viewed below:

Before making an OIA request, it may be useful to view information on the Ministry's website. The Ministry publishes useful information online on a regular basis such as:

Can anyone request information?

Almost. Anyone who is in New Zealand can request official information. New Zealand citizens overseas, and corporate bodies with a place of business in New Zealand can also apply.

In order to assist the Ministry and ensure that you receive the correct information, be as specific as you can in identifying the information you want. The information you are requesting must be specified with 'due particularity' meaning that the Ministry must be able to identify the information you have asked for. Any request that lacks due particularity will not be valid, if this is the case we may contact you to clarify your request.

Do you have to pay?

Not usually but there is a provision for a charge to be made. It must be a reasonable one. You should be told of the charge, or given an estimate, before the information is provided.

How long will it take to process my request?

The Ministry will make and communicate a decision on your request as soon as reasonably practicable and no later than 20 working days after it was received (unless an extension is made).

The Ministry may extend the maximum time limit for transferring a request or making a decision and communicating it to you if your request is for a large quantity of information or consulation is needed to make a decision on your request. Any extension must be for a reasonable period of time in the circumstances.

If you decide to amend or clarify your request, the amended or clarified version will be considered to be a new request and the 20 working days will start from the day after this new request is received.

Can information be withheld or refused?

Requests can be refused or information withheld, but only if a good reason exists under the OIA for not providing the information. The Ministry will inform you of the reason for the refusal and of your right to ask the Ombudsman to investigate the refusal, if you are not satisfied with the response.

What if I disagree with a decision made on my request?

If you do not receive a response to your request for official information within the statutory time limit, or you are unhappy with the response you receive, you can complain to the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman’s role is to “investigate and review” the agency’s decision (or lack of decision) on your request. This includes looking at:

  • Refusals and deletions
  • Delays and extensions
  • Charges
  • The manner in which information is released
  • Conditions on release.

The Ombudsman can be contacted via their website.