Tips for requesting official information
There is no specific format or style you need to use to make your request. You do not need to mention the Official Information Act (or OIA) to make a request.
- How do I know the right agency to contact?
- What can I request?
- Can I request information about myself?
- Can I request information in a specific format?
- What can I do to speed up the process?
The Ministry of Justice’s Directory of Official Information outlines information held by different agencies.
If an agency does not have the information you have asked for and they think that another agency or Minister may have the information, they will transfer your request to them. An agency may also transfer your request if they believe the information you have asked for is more closely connected with the functions of another agency or Minister.
The Official Information Act (OIA) sets out your rights to request official information. ‘Official information’ means any information held by the agency including:
- Reports, memos, letters, notes, advice and emails
- Materials like tape recordings, videos, or computer records
- Internal policies or guidelines for decision making, and
- Reasons for decisions made about you.
As an individual you can request information about yourself. Requests for personal information are processed under the Privacy Act. You can find more information about privacy requests from the Privacy Commissioner. Agencies will always make sure to tell you whether they have responded to your request under the OIA and/or Privacy Act.
Companies or incorporated societies can also request information about themselves. This is considered under the OIA rather than the Privacy Act.
You can ask for information to be provided to you in a specific format. For example, you can ask for oral information to be provided to you or to review information in person (inspect files). You can also ask for the information to be provided in an electronic or paper format.
If an agency doesn’t provide it in the way you requested, they must explain why, and you can make a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman if you are dissatisfied.
Before requesting information it is worth checking that the agency has not already published the information you are interested in, by looking at what they publish already on their website.
If the information you are after is not available on the website you can make a request for this information. It will help an agency respond as quickly as possible if your request is specific – if you clearly outline what you are after and with a time period you are interested in.
You may also want to say why you are seeking this information – you don’t have to do this, but it may make it easier to identify all information relevant to your request.