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Public interest: A guide to the public interest test

Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987
Section 7
Official Information Act 1982
Section 9
Issue date:

The grounds for withholding official information in section 9 of the OIA and section 7 of the LGOIMA are subject to a ‘public interest test’.

This means agencies must balance the public interest in disclosing information against the need to withhold it. If the public interest in disclosure outweighs the need to withhold the information, then it must be released.

This is a guide to how the public interest test works in practice. It covers:

  • What is the public interest?
  • How to identify the public interest considerations favouring disclosure
  • Example public interest considerations favouring disclosure
  • Irrelevant considerations
  • Factors that can affect the weight of the public interest
  • Alternative ways that agencies can strike the right balance between the need to withhold and the public interest in release, like deletions, summaries and conditions
  • Recording and giving reasons

The guide includes a summary work sheet that takes you through the public interest test, and case studies illustrating the application of that test.

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