Freedom of Information (FOI)
The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) came into effect on Norfolk Island on 1 January 2011. This means that you have a right to ask for access to documents held by the Norfolk Island Regional Council. This includes Council documents containing personal information about you, and other information that may not be publicly available.
Accessing government information
Council has a lot of information publicly available on its website. Before lodging an FOI request it is a good idea to check to see if the information that you require is publicly available, you can do this by contacting Customer Care on local freecall 0100 (international callers may phone +672 3 22244) or, by emailing customercare [at] nirc.gov.nf (subject: Request%20for%20Information)
If the information that you require is not publicly available, the FOI Act is one way that you can request access to Council information. You may also ask Council for administrative access to the information sought as some documents do not require the process of FOI to release information.
Who is covered by the FOI Act?
The FOI Act applies to the Norfolk Island Regional Council.
Who can request documents under the FOI Act?
Any person can request access under the FOI Act to documents held by the Norfolk Island Regional Council; they need not be a resident of Norfolk Island.
What information can I be given?
Access must be given to a document that is requested under the FOI Act unless the document, or part thereof is exempt.
The FOI Act applies to documents created from 1 January 2006 (five years before the FOI Act commenced on Norfolk Island). It also applies to documents created before that date if they contain your personal, business, commercial or financial information, and documents that are reasonably necessary to enable a proper understanding of another document that you lawfully have access to, subject to its availabilty.
Exempt documents that can be refused to be released under the FOI Act include:
- documents affecting Australia’s national security, defence or international relations
- Australian Government Cabinet documents
- documents affecting the enforcement of law and public safety
- documents to which secrecy provisions in other legislations apply
- documents subject to legal professional privilege
- documents containing material obtained in confidence
- documents whose disclosure would be in contempt of the Parliament of the Commonwealth or a state or in contempt of court
- documents disclosing trade secrets or commercially viable information
- Electoral rolls and applicable documents prepared under laws applicable to Norfolk Island
Other documents exempt from the FOI Act include documents available on a public register for a fee (such as rating 603 certificates) and other documents available for purchase from a Council.
There are also eight categories of ‘conditionally exempt’ documents. Those documents must be released unless their disclosure would be contrary to the public interest. Conditionally exempt documents relate to:
- relations between the Commonwealth, Norfolk Island, a state or a territory
- the financial and property interests of the Norfolk Island Regional Council
- certain operations of the Council (such as audits, examinations and personnel management)
- documents affecting personal privacy
- documents disclosing business affairs
- documents affecting the economy of Norfolk Island
In cases where it is decided that only part of a document contains information that is exempt under the FOI Act, you may be given an edited version with the exempt content deleted. It may also be decided to delete other information that is not relevant to the scope of your request. In these cases the decision maker should indicate where content has been edited and why.
How do I make an FOI request?
To make an FOI request you must:
- make the request in writing
- state that it is an application for the purposes of the FOI Act
- provide precise information about the document(s) you want, to allow the Norfolk Island Regional Council to identify them
- give details about how notices can be sent to you (this can include an email address)
- send your request to the Norfolk Island Regional Council by emailing regionalcouncil [at] nirc.gov.nf (subject: FOI%20Request) or by mailing your request to the FOI Officer, PO Box 95, Norfolk Island 2899
The Norfolk Island Regional Council must notify you within 14 days that they have received your request. The Council may also consult you if your request is complex or large, and they cannot process it without spending an unreasonable amount of time or resources. The consultation process aims to help you refine the scope of your request.
Charges under the FOI Act
There is no application fee for requesting access to a document under the FOI Act or, for asking for your personal information to be amended or annotated. However, the Norfolk Island Regional Council may decide to charge you for the work involved in processing your request, except where the request concerns access to your own personal information.
When will I receive a decision?
The Norfolk Island Regional Council must make a decision about your FOI request within 30 days of receiving it. The 30 day period may be extended:
- by up to 30 days if you agree in writing
- by 30 days where the decision maker needs to consult the Australian Government, an international organization, or other people where the document relates to their business or personal privacy
- by the time taken to revise your request if the Norfolk Island Regional Council notifies you that the scope is unreasonably wide
- by any time during which the Norfolk Island Regional Council is discussing with you the charges for processing your request.
The Australian Information Commissioner may also grant the Norfolk Island Regional Council an extension in some circumstances. The Information Commissioner is an independent officer who has oversight of the FOI Act and can review decisions made by the Norfolk Island Regional Council.
Your review rights
If you are not satisfied with the decision on your FOI request, you have the right to ask for a review.
You can also make contact with the Information Commissioner if you have concerns about how the Norfolk Island Regional Council handled your request. Before doing so, you should contact the Norfolk Island Regional Council directly to try to resolve your concerns.
What if the information I want is from the Department of Infrastructure?
If the information that you require is not related to Council, but, is related to the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development (DITCRD) you can access their FOI process via their website https://www.infrastructure.gov.au/department/ips/
The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner also publishes a range of FOI facts and other guidance that may be of interest at https://www.oaic.gov.au.
The Norfolk Island Regional Council FOI Disclosure Log can be found here:
PO box 95
Norfolk Island 2899
Phone: +6723 22001
Email: regionalcouncil [at] nirc.gov.nf (subject: FOI%20Request)