When can official information be withheld?

If an agency considers that there is good reason to refuse a request for official information it should advise the requester of: 3754

-  The decision to refuse the request;
-  The reason for its decision to refuse the request;
-  The right to complain to the Ombudsman about the decision to refuse the request.

Information may be withheld under the Official Information Act if:

(1) The making available of that information would be likely: 3755

-  To prejudice the security or defence of New Zealand
-  To prejudice the international relations of the Government of New Zealand
-  To prejudice the entrusting of information to the Government of New Zealand on a basis of confidence by the Government of any other country or any international organisation
-  To prejudice the maintenance of the law (including the right to a fair trial)
-  To endanger the safety of any person
-  To damage seriously the economy of New Zealand by disclosing prematurely decisions to change or continue government economic or financial policies 

(2) Unless other considerations make it desirable in the public interest to make the information available, if the withholding of the information is necessary to: 3756

-  Protect the privacy of natural persons
-  Protect information which would disclose a trade secret or unreasonably prejudice the commercial position of the person who supplied or is the subject of the information
-  Protect information which is subject to an obligation of confidence (where making available the information would prejudice the supply of similar information or otherwise damage the public interest)
-  Protect information which any person has been or could be compelled to provide under a statute (where making available the information would prejudice the supply of similar information or otherwise damage the public interest)
-  Avoid prejudice to measures protecting the health and safety of members of the public
-  Avoid prejudice to the substantial economic interests of New Zealand
-  Avoid prejudice to measures that prevent or mitigate material loss to members of the public
-  Maintain constitutional conventions which protect confidentiality of communications with the Sovereign or her representative
-  Maintain constitutional conventions which protect collective and individual ministerial responsibility
-  Maintain constitutional conventions which protect the political neutrality of officials
-  Maintain constitutional conventions which protect the confidentiality of advice tendered by Ministers of the Crown and officials
-  Maintain the effective conduct of public affairs through the free and frank expression of opinions by, between or to Ministers of the Crown, members of an organisation or employees of any department or organisation in the course of their duty
-  Maintain the effective conduct of public affairs through the protection of Ministers, members of an organisation or employees of any department or organisation from improper pressure or harassment
-  Maintain legal professional privilege
-  Enable a Minister of the Crown, any department, or any organisation to carry out, without prejudice or disadvantage, commercial activities
-  Enable a Minister of the Crown, any department, or any organisation to carry on, without prejudice or disadvantage, negotiations
-  Prevent the disclosure or use of official information for improper gain or improper advantage 

(3) There are administrative grounds for refusing the request, including: 3757

-  The release would be contrary to the provisions of another enactment, contempt of court or Parliament;
-  The information is or will soon be publicly available;
-  The information does not exist or is not held;
-  Substantial collation and research is required;-  The request is for trivial information or is frivolous or vexatious.

Information may be withheld under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 if:

(1) The making available of that information would be likely: 3758

-  To prejudice the maintenance of the law (including the right to a fair trial)
-  To endanger the safety of any person

(2) Unless other considerations make it desirable in the public interest to make the information available, if the withholding of the information is necessary to: 3759

-  Protect the privacy of natural persons
-  Protect information which would disclose a trade secret or unreasonably prejudice the commercial position of the person who supplied or is the subject of the information
-  In the case of a resource consent, water conservation order, designation or heritage order process, to avoid serious offence to tikanga Maori or avoid the disclosure of the location of waahi tapu
-  Protect information which is subject to an obligation of confidence (where making available the information would prejudice the supply of similar information or otherwise damage the public interest)
-  Protect information which any person has been or could be compelled to provide under a statute (where making available the information would prejudice the supply of similar information or otherwise damage the public interest)
-  Avoid prejudice to measures protecting the health and safety of members of the public
-  Avoid prejudice to measures that prevent or mitigate material loss to members of the public
-  Maintain the effective conduct of public affairs through the free and frank expression of opinions by, between or to members or officers or employees of any local authority
-  Maintain the effective conduct of public affairs through the protection of members or officers or employees of any local authority from improper pressure or harassment
-  Maintain legal professional privilege
-  Enable a local authority to carry out, without prejudice or disadvantage, commercial activities
-  Enable a local authority to carry on, without prejudice or disadvantage, negotiations (including commercial and industrial negotiations)
-  Prevent the disclosure or use of official information for improper gain or improper advantage

(3) There are administrative grounds for refusing the request, including: 3760

-  The release would be contrary to the provisions of another enactment, contempt of court or Parliament;
-  The information is or will soon be publicly available;
-  The information does not exist or is not held;
-  Substantial collation and research is required;
-  The request is for trivial information or is frivolous or vexatious.

  1. Section 6 Official Information Act 1982

  2. Section 9 Official Information Act 1982

  3. Section 18 Official Information Act 1982

  4. Section 6 Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987

  5. Section 7 Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987

  6. Section 17 Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987

Last updated at 11:21AM on March 6, 2015