Timaru District Council is bound by the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 (LGOIMA) and the Privacy Act 1993 (which covers requests for personal information). The term "Official Information" refers to all information (with a few exceptions) held by a local authority or a Council Controlled Organisation of that local authority.
The purpose of LGOIMA is to promote democracy and transparency in Local Government by making information freely available. LGOIMA covers information held by District Councils and meetings of public bodies, including those not open to the public. The purposes of the Act are to:
- make information held by local authorities more readily available
- promote the open and public transaction of business at meetings of local authorities
- enable more effective participation by the public in the actions and decisions of local authorities
- promote the accountability of local authority members and officials, and thereby to promote good local government
- provide proper access by each person to official information relating to that person
- protect official information where it is in the public interest and for the preservation of personal privacy.
Types of requests for Official Information
There are two types of requests for official information:
- Local Government Official Information and Meeting Act Requests (LGOIMA)
- Privacy Requests
Any person or group can request information under LGOIMA. No reason need be given unless the information is required urgently.
Privacy Act requests are governed by the Privacy Act 1993 and means that you have the right to request, view and correct any information we hold about you. Personal information, however, can only be requested by the person concerned or by a properly authorised agent of that person.
It is preferable that all requests are made in writing. Your request should include your name, address details, and specific details of the information you want (where possible). Officers are willing to assist people in framing their requests. You should also include how you want the information delivered to you.
Written requests for information should be addressed to the Chief Executive, Timaru District Council, PO Box 522, Timaru who will arrange for the appropriate reply to be given.
These can be made direct to the Customer Services staff at the District Council Building, Timaru.
How the Council Responds
Procedures are set out in the acts, which covers responses to requests. Reasonable assistance must be given to people making requests.
Under LGOIMA, there are time limits on:
- transferring requests if Timaru District Council is not the right agency
- deciding whether or not to grant a request and notifying the person (within 20 working days)
- providing the information
There may be privacy, confidentiality, legal, cultural and/or commercial factors or reasons that affect a decision to supply information.
Information will be supplied as soon as reasonably practical, and in no case later than 20 working days from the receipt of the request. This deadline may, however, be extended if there are good reasons for doing so.
Refusal of Requests
The information requested must be made available unless there is a reason under the Acts for not releasing it.
Release of "Confidential Information"
Information which has previously been treated as confidential or handled by the Council or its predecessors "in committee" can only be released by the Chief Executive following a written application and subject to it not being contrary to the public interest to release such information.
Where a person is not satisfied that they have received what they required, or such information has been refused, they have a right to request the Ombudsman's Office or Privacy Commissioner to investigate the Council's handling of the request.
There may be a charge for providing official information under LGOIMA (e.g. photocopying or time, where extensive research is involved). However, the Council will contact the persons seeking information before any charges are incurred.