Politician's Rights to Privacy vs Public Rights to Know

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September 2010, Wellington, New Zealand | I S S U E S P A P E R 1 8

ThE PUblIc’S RIghT To KNoW
A REvIEW of ThE offIcIAl INfoRmATIoN AcT 1982 ANd PARTS 1–6 of ThE locAl govERNmENT offIcIAl INfoRmATIoN ANd mEETINgS AcT 1987

The law commission is an independent, publicly funded, central advisory body established by statute to undertake the systematic review, reform and development of the law of New Zealand. Its purpose is to help achieve law that is just, principled, and accessible, and that reflects the heritage and aspirations of the peoples of New Zealand. The Commissioners are: Right honourable Sir geoffrey Palmer Sc – President dr Warren Young – Deputy President Emeritus Professor John burrows Qc george Tanner Qc val Sim The general manager of the law commission is brigid corcoran The office of the law commission is at level 19, hP Tower, 171 featherston Street, Wellington Postal address: Po box 2590, Wellington 6140, New Zealand document Exchange Number: sp 23534 Telephone: (04) 473-3453, facsimile: (04) 471-0959 Email: com@lawcom.govt.nz Internet: www.lawcom.govt.nz

National library of New Zealand cataloguing-in-Publication data New Zealand’s official information legislation [electronic resource] : a review of the official Information Act 1982 and parts 1–6 of the local government official Information and meetings Act 1987. (law commission issues paper ; 18) ISbN 978-1-877569-02-9 1. New Zealand. official Information Act 1982. 2. New Zealand. local government official Information and meetings Act 1987. 3. government information—New Zealand. 4. Public records— law and legislation—New Zealand. I. New Zealand. law commission. II. Series: Issues paper (New Zealand. law commission : online) ; 18. This issues paper is available on the Internet at the law commission’s website: www.lawcom.govt.nz

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L a w C om m issi o n I s s u e s P a p e r

Fo r e w ord

The key principle of the official Information Act 1982 and the local government official Information and meetings Act 1987 is that official information should be made available unless in the particular case there is good reason for withholding it. overall the Acts have achieved their purpose. They have changed the culture about the availability of official information. our society is now much more open than it was. change to the basic philosophy of the Acts is not in contemplation. however this is not to say that there are no problems. Agencies find some of the withholding grounds difficult to apply, and requesters can also have difficulty understanding them. We ask whether any of the grounds would benefit from being expressed differently, or whether more guidance is needed to assist users in working with them. compliance with the Acts can also sometimes involve considerable resource, and we ask whether there is any way in which unreasonably large requests can be contained so that benefit and cost can be kept in proper balance. In addition to a number of more mechanical matters such as time limits and transfer of requests, we also ask some large new questions. given rapid advances in technology, we ask to what extent proactive disclosure of information on the internet (as opposed to supplying it to individuals on request) should be encouraged or even mandated. We also consider whether important functions such as training, education and oversight of the operation of the Acts should be provided for in the legislation and, if so, which agency should undertake them. These questions are being asked internationally, and we review these international developments. There is no doubt that the New Zealand legislation has served its purpose. overseas commentators have cited it as a model. but time moves on, and we must not rest on our laurels. otherwise we risk being left behind. In this Issues Paper we ask a number of questions, and invite public submissions on them. We would like to hear from as many people as possible, including those who make requests under...
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