Access to Information - Frequently Asked Questions
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Access to Information - Frequently Asked Questions

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General Council Information

What is the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW) (GIPA Act)?

The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 replaces the Freedom of Information Act 1989 and Section 12 of the Local Government Act 1993, and introduces a new right to information system.

The new system is focused on making government information more readily available.

This means that a Council must release information unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure.

The GIPA Act commenced on 1 July 2010.

How do I get access to Council’s general documents and files?

Click here to view Open Access Information Register. If you can’t find the document that you are looking for, complete a general request form for Informal Access to Information. Write a description of the documents in the space provided. If you have questions about the form, contact a Council officer. Refer to lodgment details to forward your application.

What Council registers may I view?

In the case of any register that contains personal or health information Council reserves the right to satisfy itself that access by any person is for a purpose consistent with the purpose for which the register was created.

How is access of the information provided?

Where possible, documents will be forwarded to applicants by e-mail. This is, however, dependent on the quantity of information requested.

Photocopying

Copied documents may not be available immediately at the time of the request and may not be provided until Council has received payment of the copying fees (if applicable). Copying charges are detailed in Council's Fees and Charges.

Copyright

Due to copyright, Council may be prevented from producing copies of documents, such as plans, publications, reports and statements of environmental impact. Information provided to you may be subject to copyright, and is provided for your personal information only, in accordance with your application. Council accepts no responsibility as to any use you may make of this information. Under copyright legislation you are obliged to take due care in using this information for commercial or any other purposes.

What if I don’t want to get an e-mail or photocopy, how do I view a File or Document?

Viewing of files or documents will take place by appointment only. Appointment times are between 8:30am to 4:40pm Monday to Friday at Council offices. If more than 2 hours are required, an additional appointment may be required.

 

Under no circumstances is any document to be removed from file.

 

How long will it take to obtain documents or access files?

 

If the documents are not listed in the Open Access Information Register, it may take up to 2-3 weeks to obtain them. Some of the documents listed on the form are readily available. Council has files located in an offsite archives area and others require search time to provide appropriate documents.

Development Applications

How can I see the contents of a Development Application file?

Files may be accessible by completing a Development Application Access to Information Request form and submitting it to Council.

How can I access the objections or support letters on a Development Application?

Complete a Development Application Access to Information Request form and tick ‘submissions’ and submit it to Council. Your request will be assessment and the documents may be made available.

How do I view or obtain a copy of building plans?

During the Exhibition period plans can be viewed on Council’s Development Application website.

If the Development’s exhibition period has ceased complete a Development Application Informal Access to Information form and submit to Council.

Costs

What fees will I have to pay for an informal application?

In accordance with the provisions of Section 6 of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009, there are no fees for accessing Council files and documents. However, photocopying fees and charges for discs may apply. There are charges for copies of plans with varying costs, according to size. Fees will be charged on completion of the application. Refer to Council’s Fees and Charges for further information.

How can I pay the associated fees?

Council will accept payment in the form of postal cheque or money order. Alternatively, you can make payment at Council offices via a cash payment, cheque or credit. Council does not accept payment over the phone or on-line for this service.

What do I do if I can’t afford to pay the fees?

You can apply for a 50 per cent reduction in processing costs on the grounds of financial hardship, or ask for a waiver of the fee if the information will be of special benefit to the public generally.

Formal Applications

How do I make a formal application for information?

Any person can make a formal application for access to information held by a government agency. This should be the last resort, after the informal avenues have been tried.

You will need to complete a Formal Access Application form and pay a $30 application fee. You will be notified of the decision on your application within 20 working days, unless you agree to extend the time. We may also extend the time by 10 to 15 days where consultation with a third party is required or if we need to retrieve records from archives.

Will other people have access to the information released to me?

If you receive information after making a formal application, and Council believes that information may be of interest to other members of the public, Council ordinarily records it on the “disclosure log” which is made available on the website.

The disclosure log describes the information that was provided to the applicant and, if it is available to other members of the public, how they can access it.

You can object to information being included in the disclosure log if it includes personal information about you or about a deceased person that you personally represent, the information concerns your business, commercial, professional, or financial interests or research undertaken.

What is in the public interest?

Before releasing government information Council will compare the public interest in accessing the information to the public interest in refusing access to that information.

Council can only refuse access to information if the public interest against disclosure outweighs the general public interest in favour of disclosure.

What are the public interests against releasing information?

There are only limited and specific interests against disclosure that Council can take into account. These are:

• Law enforcement and security
• Individual rights, judicial process and natural justice
• Responsible and effective government
• Business interests
• Environment, culture, economy and other matters
• Secrecy and exemption provisions in other laws

What are the public interests in favour of releasing information?

There is no limit to the matters Council may take into account in favour of releasing information.

What happens if someone makes repeated applications for the same information?

If a person has made at least three access applications within two years that lack merit, the ADT may order that the person must get the ADT’s approval before making another access application.

If a person is subject to such a restraint order they cannot apply to the ADT for approval to make an access application without first service notice on Council and the Information Commissioner.

Review Rights

Can Council refuse my request for information? What are my review rights?

Council can refuse your request if:

  • The information you have asked for is already publicly available
  • You have not paid a deposit
  • Your request would take an unreasonable amount of time to process
  • There is an overriding public interest against disclosure.

You have three options if you have been refused access to information.

  • Internal review:

You can apply to Council for an internal review. This is reviewed by someone equal or more senior than the original decision maker and a $40 fee applies. The applicant has 20 working days from receiving the notice of decision to ask for an internal review.

  • Review by the Information Commissioner:

If you are not satisfied with the internal review, or do not want one, you can ask for a review by the Information Commissioner. You have eight (8) weeks from being notified of a decision to ask for this review. Further information can be sourced from the Office of the Information Commissioner.

  • Review at the Administrative Decisions Tribunal:

If you are not satisfied with the decision of the Information Commission or the internal review or if you do not want to take these options you can apply to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal (ADT). If you have already had a review by the Information Commissioner you have four (4) weeks from notification of the decision to make this application. If you haven’t had a review by the Information Commissioner you have eight (8) weeks from notification of the decision to make this application. Further information can be sourced from the Administrative Decisions Tribunal.

Lodgment Details

By Post: The General Manager, Wollongong City Council, Locked Bag 8821, Wollongong DC NSW 2500

In Person: Wollongong City Council Administration Building, 41 Burelli Street, Wollongong E-mail: council@wollongong.nsw.gov.au

Online: www.wollongong.nsw.gov.au/customerserviceonline

What now?

Once your application is received a Council Officer will contact you if further information is required. For more information about your application please contact us by calling (02) 4227 7111. ​

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