Apply for access to Council documents

Overview

Under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (commonly referred to as the 'GIPA Act'), you can access and see a lot of information we hold in Council records (both digital and hard-copy).

The GIPA Act commenced on 1 July 2010, replacing the Freedom for Information Act 1989 and Section 12 of the Local Government Act 1993.

We aim to publish as much information as we can. We keep several information registers (lists of documents by topic) so you can find it easily.

This information includes registers like:

Our Agency Information Guide explains Council’s approach to the release of information.

Types of information access

The GIPA Act provides a pathway to accessing information in four stages:

1. Open access (mandatory proactive release)

Open access information includes information provided on our website, free of charge. For instance, information about Council as an organisation, our policy documents, information about Development Applications and register of government contracts.

Under the GIPA Act, information known as ‘open access information’ must be disclosed by us unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosing it.

Applying the public interest test

Council’s Information and Privacy Officer uses the guides provided by the Information and Privacy Commission together with their extensive knowledge to apply the public interest test.

What is the public interest test?

Please note some open access information may not be made available

Where open access information Council holds contains personal information, the personal information may not be made publicly available, if the Council considers that there would be an overriding public interest against its disclosure. For example the Council withholds the signatures and principal address information of staff members where they appear on pecuniary interest statements.

Under GIPA Act pt 2 div 1 section 6 - Mandatory proactive release of certain government information point (5), Council must keep a record of the open access information (if any) that it does not make publicly available on the basis of an overriding public interest against disclosure. The record only indicates the general nature of the information concerned.

2. Authorised proactive release

Along with information that is required to be publicly available under the GIPA Act, we are committed to providing as much information as possible, for free or at a low cost.

A lot of information is easy to access and available to the public on our website. If you need help locating information, please contact us.

3. Informal release

Informal release applications have an associated cost, so you should only request an informal release if the information you are looking for isn't already publicly available.

For the fees and charges associated with an informal release please go to the fees and charges section of this page.

If the information you are looking for is not already available online, you can informally apply to have the information released by Council. We can release information if there is no overriding public interest against the disclosure of it.

For instance, you are entitled to request personal information about yourself or apply on behalf of someone else that is seeking their personal information, but you can't apply for the personal information of another member of the community.

Information you can usually request this way includes:

  • documents from Development Applications (that are not made available on Council’s website)
  • information or documents that do not contain the personal information of third parties or confidential information

As we address your request, we may impose any reasonable conditions on the supply of this information. For instance, where information is subject to copyright protection, the copyright owners written consent is required in order to gain copies of these documents.

Complete and submit:

Or

Include your full contact details and sufficient information for the information requested to be identified.

Please note: Council retains discretion to require a formal access application in certain circumstances including:

  • where a request involves a significant diversion of resources
  • the requested material contains information about a third party that cannot be deleted easily or without rendering the information useless, and consultation with third parties is required
  • the material is sensitive in nature and requires careful balancing of public interests

4. Formal release

Formal release applications are the most involved type of application, and have an associated processing cost that has the potential to be quite high, so a formal release should be the last resort after all informal avenues have been tried.

For the fees and charges associated with a formal release please go to the fees and charges section of this page.

Information that is not able to be provided via 'informal release' can be requested via a formal access application. You have a legally enforceable right to be provided with the information unless there is an overriding public interest against the disclosure of it.

A formal access application may be required if the information you are applying for involves:

  • information about a third party - whether that be an individual or a business
  • confidential information
  • commercial-in-confidence considerations
  • the request is in relation to current or proposed legal action
  • a substantial investment of time or resources is required by us to address the request

Formal access applications must:

  • be made in writing
  • contain sufficient information to enable the information requested to be identified
  • be accompanied by a $30 application lodgement fee

Council has 20 working days to decide on an application (with provision for that time limit to be extended by a maximum of 15 days if records need to be retrieved from archives or third parties need to be consulted).

Decisions made by Council about formal access applications can be requested for internal review by Council, or an application for external review by the Information Commissioner and/or the Administrative Decisions Tribunal can also be made.

Complete and submit:

Fees and charges

The GIPA Act sets a fee for the lodgement of and processing time for access applications under GIPA Act pt 4 div 5 s64 - Processing charge for dealing with access application.

You can find information on the relevant fees and charges on the tables below. All fees and charges are GST free.

For assistance in understanding the way GIPA fees and charges are calculated, please view the Information and Privacy Commission's GIPA Act fees and charges fact sheet.

Informal access applications

Reference no. Fee name Fee purpose Amount
14374 Application fee Flat fee for lodging informal information application. Counts towards the first hour of processing. $30 per application
14375 Processing charge Charge per hour of processing time after the first.

$30 per hour

Formal access applications

Reference no. Fee name Fee purpose Amount
15095 Advance deposit Advance deposit of up to 50% of the estimated cost to process a formal GIPA application Varies per application
14372 Application fee Flat fee for lodging formal information application. Counts towards the first hour of processing $30 per application
14373 Processing charge Charge per hour of processing time for the next 20 hours after the first $30 per hour

Requesting a review of a decision

The GIPA Act sets a fee for the lodgement of an internal review application under GIPA Act pt 5 div 2 s 85 - Fee for internal review. No processing charges apply to review applications.

To learn more about the review process, go to requesting a review of an application decision.

Reference no. Fee name Fee purpose Amount
14376 Application fee
Flat fee for lodging the internal review application. $40 per application

Development information prior to 1 July 2010

While development applications and related decisions made before 1 July 2010 are no longer considered open access information, they continue to be 'government information' within the meaning of the GIPA Act and can be requested through an access application.

Discounts

As set out in the GIPA Act, an applicant may eligible for a maximum discount of 50% of the processing fee if they are experiencing financial hardship or the information is of special benefit to the general public. The discount can't exceed 50% even if you qualify on both grounds.

50% discounts do not apply to the cost of the application fee, however if applicant is eligible for a discount, the application lodgement fee will pay for two (2) hours of processing time instead of one (1).

If an applicant is applying for their own personal information, or applying on behalf of someone else for that person’s personal information, there is no processing charge for the next 20 hours of processing time after the first.

Information protected by copyright

Council is committed to meeting our obligations under the Copyright Act 1968 and the GIPA Act.

We will not provide copies of documents which are subject to copyright without the express written consent of the copyright owner/s.

Requesting a review of an application decision

If you have lodged a formal application to access Council documents and you disagree with a decision about the release of information, you have a right to have that decision reviewed.

Examples of reviewable decisions include a decision:

  • that an application is not a valid access application
  • to refuse to deal with an access application (including a decision that is deemed to have been made)
  • to provide access or to refuse to provide access to information
  • that government information is not held by Council
  • that information applied for is already available to the applicant
  • to refuse to confirm or deny that information is held by Council
  • to impose a processing charge or to require an advance deposit

A complete list of reviewable decisions is set out in GIPA Act pt 5 div 1 s 80 - Which decisions are reviewable decisions, and are also shown on page two (2) of the Internal Review Application.

Generally, you have three (3) options if you want a decision reviewed:

1. Internal review

You have 20 working days after the notice of a decision has been given to you to request an internal review.

The review must be carried out by a person who is no less senior than the person who made the original decision and cannot be carried out by the person who made the original decision. The review decision must be made as if it was a fresh application.

If Council’s Chief Executive Officer made the original decision, you cannot ask for an internal review, but you can ask for an external review.

There is a $40.00 fee for an internal review application except if the decision is ‘deemed refusal’ and this could occur if your application was not processed within the required time. In this case, you cannot be charged any review fee.

Your application will be acknowledged within five (5) working days of receiving it.

Council must decide the internal review within 15 working days (this can be extended by 10 days if third party consultation is involved or, or by agreement with you).

2. External review by the Information Commissioner

If you disagree with any of the decisions listed above, you can ask for a review by the Information Commissioner.

If you are the person applying for access to information, you do not have to have an internal review of the decision before asking the Information Commissioner to review it.

If you are not the access applicant, you must seek an internal review before applying for review by the Information Commissioner.

You have eight weeks from being notified of the decision to ask for a review by the Information Commissioner.

On reviewing the decision, the Information Commissioner can make recommendations about the decision to the agency.

You cannot ask the Information Commissioner to review a decision that has already been reviewed by the Administrative Decisions Tribunal.

3. External review by the Administrative Decisions Tribunal

If you disagree with any of the decisions listed above, you can ask for a review by the Administrative Decisions Tribunal (ADT).

You do not have to have the decision reviewed internally, or by the Information Commissioner before applying for review by the ADT.

You have up to eight (8) weeks from being notified of the decision to apply to the ADT for review.

However, if you have applied for review by the Information Commissioner, you have four (4) weeks from being notified of the Information Commission’s review outcome to apply to the ADT.

GIPA Act FAQs

What is 'government information'?

'Government information' is anything held in a record by an agency, on behalf of an agency by a government contractor, or by the State Records Authority.

A 'record' means any document or other source of information compiled, recorded or stored in written or electronic form.

What is 'personal information'?

The Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (known as 'PPIPA') defines personal information as "information or an opinion about an individual whose identity is apparent or can reasonably be ascertained from the information or opinion".

Personal information collected by Council can include your name, email address and any other information you provide.

To learn more about the way Council handles privacy and personal information, visit the Privacy & Personal Information page.

How can I access my own personal information?

You can access your personal information held by an agency in several ways.

Under the GIPA Act, the first step is to make an informal request for your information.

Agencies should make every effort to release your personal information in this way. In some circumstances you may need to make a formal access application.

You may apply for access under the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1988 pt 2 div 1 s 14 - Access to personal information held by agencies.

The Information and Privacy Commission has prepared a fact sheet to help you understand the Information Protection Principles that Council is obligated to follow:

You can apply for access to your health information under the Health Records Information and Privacy Act 2002.

How do I obtain property owner information?

We only release property owner details if they are a business or corporation. In compliance with privacy laws, we do not release individual ownership details.

You can apply for individual property ownership information from NSW Land Registry Services.

Who can make a formal application?

Any person can make a formal application for access to information held by an agency.

This should be the last resort, after the informal avenues have been tried.

How will an agency process my application?

Agencies have up to five working days from the day they receive your application to consider it and let you know whether or not it is valid.

If your access application is valid, the agency will take steps to see if it has the information you want. The agency may need to consult other people, businesses or government bodies to find the information.

When the agency has finished consulting, it must provide you with the information unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure (public interest test) or the information is excluded.

If the agency decides your application is not valid it must tell you why. The agency must provide you with reasonable assistance to make a valid application.

What is 'in the public interest'?

Before releasing government information, government agencies must apply a 'public interest test' to evaluate whether the public interest in keeping that information private and secure outweighs the public interest in accessing the information.

Agencies can only refuse access to information if public against release outweighs the public interest for release.

There are limited and specific interests against release of information that an agency can consider. These are:

  • law enforcement and security
  • individual rights, judicial processes and natural justice
  • responsible and effective government
  • business interests
  • environment, culture, economy and other matters
  • secrecy and exemption provisions in other laws

For example, the GIPA Act provides a list of excluded information that, in the public interest, must not be disclosed. The list includes information that is required to be kept restricted under witness protection legislation, information about the identity of jurors, and details on the child protection offenders register.

There is no limit to the matters an agency may take into account in favour of releasing information when considering the public interest test.

Do all government agencies have to release information?

Yes.

All NSW Government agencies have to release information as set out in the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009, including:

  • government departments
  • government ministers (and their personal staff)
  • public authorities and offices
  • local councils
  • courts

Are there penalties for not following GIPA regulations?

There are a range of penalties that can be applied under the GIPA Act for the following conduct:

  • an officer knowingly deciding a formal access application contrary to the requirements of the Act
  • directing an officer to make a decision he or she knows is not permitted or required by the Act
  • improperly influencing a decision on an access application
  • knowingly misleading or deceiving an officer for the purpose of obtaining access to government information
  • concealing, destroying or altering information for the purpose of preventing the release of information

These offences attract a maximum penalty of 100 penalty units.

View:

Can my request for information be refused?

Agencies can refuse your request if:

  • 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
  • there is an overriding public interest against disclosure

Can I appeal a refusal?

If you are unhappy with the decision made on an application, you are entitled to request a review under the GIPA Act.

Can other people access the information released to me?

If you receive information after making a formal application, and the agency believes that information may of interest to other members of the public, the agency ordinarily records it on the ‘disclosure log’ which is made available on the agency’s website.

The disclosure log describes the information that was provided to the applicant and — if it is available to other members of the public — how they can access it.

You can object to information being included in the disclosure log if:

  • it includes personal information about you or about a deceased person that you personally represent
  • the information concerns your business, commercial, professional, or financial interests or research undertaken.

Can the government release information about my business?

An agency may release information about your business in response to an access application, however, the decision will be subject to the public interest test.

If an access application covers your business information, an agency must consult you to see whether or not you object to the information being released. Your objection must relate to one or more of the five public interest considerations against disclosure set out in the Act.

If the agency decides that, on balance, the public interests against disclosure outweigh those for disclosure, then they will not release the information.

If an agency decides to release your business information, despite your objection, you have a right have this decision reviewed under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009.

What happens if someone repeatedly tries to access the same information?

If a person has made at least three (3) access applications within two (2) years that lack merit, the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) may order the person to obtain NCAT approval before making another access application.

If a person is subject to such a restraint order they cannot apply to NCAT for approval to make an access application without first serving notice on the agency concerned and the Information Privacy Commission.

What are the legal protections under the GIPA Act?

There are a range of protections under the GIPA Act:

  • there is no action for defamation or breach of confidence when a decision to disclose information is made in good faith
  • there is no action for personal liability in relation to any action by an agency, or an officer of an agency, where the action was done in good faith for the purposes of executing the Act
  • no criminal action will be taken when a decision is made, or information is disclosed in good faith

How can I complain about my dealings with an agency?

You can complain to the Information Privacy Commission (IPC)

What is the IPC?

The IPC is the Information Privacy Commission. Their role is to administer and provide independent oversight of the new right to information system.

The IPC is strictly independent of other government agencies, with the Joint Parliamentary Committee, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Police Integrity Commission exercising certain oversight functions.

The role of the IPC is to promote public awareness and understanding of the GIPA Act and provide information, advice, assistance and training to agencies and the public.

The IPC also monitors agencies’ functions and may report to the Minister for GIPA about proposals for legislative or administrative change.

The IPC may issue guidelines to assist agencies and the public on various matters, including:

  • public interest considerations in favour of disclosure
  • public interest considerations against disclosure of government information
  • agencies’ functions
  • the public’s rights, including rights of review
  • publication guides, including model publication guides or
  • reductions in processing charges
  • agencies must have regard to these guidelines when applying the public interest test

In carrying out these roles, the Commission has broad powers to investigate, including requiring agencies to provide information, and to conduct inquiries.