The Government’s response to the Law Commission’s report on a review of official information legislation

Last week, the government presented to the House of Representatives its response to the Law Commission’s 2012 report entitled The Public’s Right to Know: Review of the Official Information Legislation (NZLC 125). A copy is available here.

In its report, the Commission recommended relatively wide ranging reform including a new Act (redrafting the Official Information Act 1982 and, potentially, combining it with the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987), new Ombudsman guidelines, the statutory creation of a new “oversight office” (to establish a high-level government leadership role for official information), extending the Official Information Act to include the administration of the courts, the Offices of Parliament, Parliamentary Counsel Office, the Office of the Clerk and Parliamentary Service and the Speaker and the provision of new commercial protections for official information.

The Government has now said in response that it is not in a position to undertake a full reform of the Official Information Act or the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act at the moment but that recommendations for some of the amendments to the legislation that have been suggested will be progressed in the context of other work programmes.

In particular, the report provides that the government does not agree with the Law Commission’s recommendation to extend the Official Information Act to the Offices of Parliament, the Parliamentary Counsel Office, the Office of the Clerk and Parliamentary Service and the Speaker of the House, but does agree with the recommendation to extend the Act to the administrative functions of the courts. This extension would include information about expenditure, resources and statistical information about court cases but would not include information about specific cases, judicial communications or about judges’ performance and functions. This recommendation is to be pursued in the context of the current review of the Judicature Act 1908.

The government agrees that new commercial protections should be provided where material prejudice to competitive positions or financial interests could result from the disclosure of official information and intends to progress work in this area. It does not support the creation of a new oversight office, regarding the oversight provided by the Ombudsman as being effective. It does not agree that further consideration should be given to combining the Official Information Act and the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.

A number of the Law Commission’s recommendations related to the relationship between the Official Information Act and the Privacy Act. Most did not involve major legislative change but the government has agreed that improved guidance may be appropriate in the context of the review of the Privacy Act.

Accordingly, changes to our long-standing official information regime will be gradual and slight.

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