Frequently Askes Questions
What is the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW) (GIPA Act)?
The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW) (GIPA Act) replaces the Freedom of Information Act 1989 (NSW), and introduces a new right to information system.
The new system is focused on making government information more readily available.
This means that a Council must release information unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure.
The GIPA Act commenced on 1 July 2010.
How do I get Council documents and information?
There are four ways in which Council documents or information will be available.
- Mandatory release or Open Access:
You can search the Council's website. Certain information must be disclosed on Council's website, free of charge. This includes the Council's policy documents, current publication guide, disclosure log and register of government contracts.
If documents are not available on Council's website you will be required to fill out an informal access application form and lodge it with Council by mail, email, fax or in person.
- Proactive release:
You can ask Council what information they will make available to the public, in addition to the information contained on their website. Council will release as much government information as possible, in an appropriate way and free of charge (or at the lowest reasonable cost).
- Informal request:
You can ask for specific information. Council may release information without the need for a formal application, unless there are good reasons to require one.
You will be required to lodge an informal access application form with Council by mail, email, fax or in person.
- Formal application:
This is the last resort, if you haven’t been able to get the information you need in any other way. You can formally request specific information. In limited circumstances, access to information will require a formal access application. Formal access applications can be downloaded form Council's website under Online Forms and Applications.
What if I want access to a document that is not listed under Open Access?
Council requests that you speak with a Customer Service Officer or contact the Public Officer who will inform you of the most suitable application form to fill out to gain access to the information or documents you are requesting.
How do I get access to Council's Development Applications that are not available on the Website?
Council requests that you fill out an informal access application form and submit it by mail, email, fax or in person.
Where do I get an informal access application form?
You can download a copy of the form from Council's website under online forms or alternatively visits Council's Administration Centre and ask for an Informal Access application form.
How long will it take to obtain documents or access files that are not available on the Website?
It may take up to 2 weeks to obtain certain documents. Some of the documents listed under Open Access are available in a week, but most files are stored off site and others require search time to provide appropriate documents.
Photocopying and Copyright
Copied documents will not be available immediately at time of request and will not be provided until Council has received payment of the copying fees (if applicable)
Copying charges are detailed in Council's Fees and Charges document available on our website.
Due to copyright, council may be prevented from producing copies of documents, such as plans, publications and statements of environmental impact.
Information provided to you may be subject to copyright, and is provided for your personal information only, in accordance with your application. Council accepts no responsibility as to any use you may make of this information. Under copyright legislation you are obliged to take due care in using this information for commercial or any other purposes.
What if I don’t want to get a photocopy, how do I view a File or Document?
Viewing of files or documents will take place by appointment only. Appointment times are between 10.00am to 12.00pm and 2.00pm to 4.00pm Monday to Friday. If more than 2 hours are required, an additional appointment will be required.
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES IS ANY DOCUMENT TO BE REMOVED FROM FILE
Who can make a formal application for information?
Any person can make a formal application for access to information held by Council. This should be the last resort, after the informal avenues have been tried.
How do I make a formal application for information? How much does it cost?
A valid formal application for access to government information must:
- be in writing
- state that it is made under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW)
- have an Australian postal address for return correspondence
- provide enough details to help the agency identify the information you want and
- enclose the application fee of $30.
Alternatively Council has developed a formal access application form that can be downloaded from the Online forms and Applications section of this website.
Applicants may be entitled to a 50 per cent reduction of processing charges on financial hardship grounds, or if the information requested is of special benefit to the public generally.
If an agency decides to provide you with access to the information, you may be asked to pay a further processing charge. Processing costs $30 per hour and covers time needed to deal efficiently with the application.
Agencies may ask an applicant to pay up to 50 per cent of the expected processing charge in advance. This request must be in writing and the applicant must be given at least four weeks to pay.
If you seek access to your own personal information, the first 20 hours of processing time are free of charge.
Where do I get a formal access application form?
You can download a copy of the form from Council's website under online forms and applications or alternatively visits Council's Administration Centre and ask for a Formal Access application form.
What do I do if I can’t afford to pay the fees?
You can apply for a 50 per cent reduction in processing costs on the grounds of financial hardship, or ask for a waiver of the fee if the information will be of special benefit to the public generally.
How will Council process my application?
Council has up to five 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 Council will take steps to see if it has the information you want. Council may need to consult other people, businesses or government bodies to find the information.
When Council 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 Council decides your application is not valid it will tell you why. Council will provide you with reasonable assistance to make a valid application.
How long will my application take?
You will be notified of the decision on your application within 20 working days, unless you agree to extend the time.
Council may also extend the time by 10-15 days where consultation with a third party is required or if it needs to retrieve records from archives.
If access is deferred by Council then Council will notify you and include the reason for deferral and the date on which you will be given access. A decision to defer access is reviewable (review rights).
If Council does not decide your access application within 20 days, it is considered “refused”. Your application fee will be refunded and you may seek internal or external review (review rights) of this refusal.
This will not apply if an extension of time has been arranged or payment of an advance deposit is pending.
Can Council refuse my request for information? What are my review rights?
Council can refuse your request if:
- the 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.
You have three options if you have been refused access to information:
- Internal review:
You can apply to Council for an internal review. This is review by someone more senior than the original decision maker and there is a $40 fee. You have 20 working days from receiving notice of a decision to ask for an internal review.
- Review by the Information Commissioner:
If you are not satisfied with the internal review, or do not want one, you can ask for a review by the Information Commissioner. You have eight weeks from being notified of a decision to ask for this review.
- Review at the Administrative Decisions Tribunal:
If you are not satisfied with the decision of the Information Commissioner or the internal reviewer or if you do not want to take these options you can apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (ADT). If you have already had a review by the Information Commissioner you have four weeks from notification of the decision to make this application. If you haven’t had a review by the Information Commissioner you have eight weeks from notification of the decision to make this application.
Will other people have access to the information released to me?
If you receive information after making a formal application, and Council believes that information may be of interest to other members of the public, Council ordinarily records it on the “disclosure log” which is made available on the 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.
What is in the public interest?
Before releasing government information Council will compare the public interest in accessing the information to the public interest in refusing access to that information.
Council can only refuse access to information if the public interest against disclosure outweighs the general public interest in favour of disclosure.
What are the public interests against releasing information?
There are only limited and specific interests against disclosure that Council can take into account. 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
What are the public interests in favour of releasing information?
There is no limit to the matters Council may take into account in favour of releasing information.
What happens if someone makes repeated applications for the same information?
If a person has made at least three access applications within two years that lack merit, the ADT may order that the person must get the ADT’s approval before making another access application.
If a person is subject to such a restraint order they cannot apply to the ADT for approval to make an access application without first serving notice on Council and the Information Commissioner.