Sunday, October 03, 2010

Law Commission of New Zealand Issues Paper on Right to Know

The Law Commission of New Zealand recently published an "issues paper" on The Public’s Right to Know –A Review of the Official Information Act 1982:
"In December 2009 we asked both requesters and providers of information to let us know their main concerns with the operation of this legislation and in March 2010 we published a summary of the main findings from this survey. We do not suggest any change to fundamental principles but recognise several ways in which the Acts could operate more effectively. Electronic technology has transformed the information environment worldwide and we must ensure our legislation can reflect that transformation. We also think our legislation needs more ongoing administrative oversight and support and ask how this might best be achieved. The closing date for submissions is Friday 10 December 2010."
The Law Commission writes that technological change has created a much stronger expectation of openness and availability of government information than in the past.

The fundamental principles of the New Zealand access legislation may be sound, but a preliminary user survey revealed frustration from some users who felt government departments did not always take sufficient note of the public interest when declining requests for information. Some also felt officials resorted too readily to the protection of 'commercial interests' as a ground for refusal.

At the same time, some government departments that were sometimes overwhelmed by the sheer volume and scope of some requests.

The Issues Paper notes the trend in other jurisdictions, particularly the UK and Australia, towards a more proactive approach within governments towards the release of information - rather than waiting for it to be requested.

Furthermore, the Commission found that there is no body responsible for championing open government or acting as a watchdog in New Zealand.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:54 pm

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