Your ability to request official information
New Zealand law sets out how to get official information from the government. It defines official information and what agencies you can get it from and how they have to respond.
What is the law about official information?
The Official Information Act (OIA) applies to ministers and central government agencies.
The Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) applies to local government agencies.
These laws allow people to ask for official information that ministers and central and local government agencies hold.
They set out the rules for how requests should be handled, and provide for the ability to complain to the Ombudsman about the decision on a request or about the way the request was handled.
Which agencies are subject to the law?
The OIA applies to information held by central government, including:
- government departments and ministries
- crown entities
- district health boards
- state-owned enterprises
- tertiary education institutions
- school boards of trustees.
The full list is in:
- Parts 1 and 2 of Schedule 1 of the Ombudsmen Act (except for the Parliamentary Counsel Office, the Parliamentary Service and mortality review committees)
- Schedule 1 of the OIA.
The LGOIMA refers to local government agencies, such as city, district and regional councils, and includes council-controlled organisations.
The full list is in:
It also applies to council-controlled organisations under Section 74 of the Local Government Act.
You can also use the Directory of Official Information, published by the Ministry of Justice.
If you’re unsure whether an agency is subject to official information legislation, or which law applies, contact the Ombudsman for help.
What is official information?
Official information is any information held by an agency subject to the OIA or LGOIMA. This includes:
- documents, reports, memoranda, letters, emails and drafts
- non-written information, such as video or tape recordings
- the reasons for any decisions that have been made about you
- manuals that set out internal rules, principles, policies or guidelines for decision-making
- agendas and minutes of meetings, including those not open to the public.
Official information also includes information which is known to an agency but has not yet been written down.
The information has to exist at the time you ask for it.
If an agency does not have the information you are asking for, and does not believe another agency might have it instead, they do not have to create new information to answer your request.
Official information laws can’t be used to force agencies to engage in debate or to create justifications or explanations in relation to something a person might be interested in.
Who can request official information?
Anyone can ask a local government agency for official information under the LGOIMA. To ask for information under the OIA, you must be either:
- a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident
- actually present in New Zealand, or
- a body corporate (like a company) that is incorporated or that has a place of business in New Zealand.
Agencies are allowed to ask you to give them information so they can check you meet the eligibility requirements of the OIA.
New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL)
An overview of the Official Information Act (OIA) is available in NZSL on YouTube.