Obtaining information from OEH and EPA
Much of OEH's information is publicly available free of charge on OEH's websites, through the Information Centre, OEH offices, libraries and public registers. Information is also available for inspection or purchase at the lowest reasonable cost.
Government Information (Public Access) Act (GIPA Act)
The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act) replaced the Freedom of Information Act 1989 on 1 July 2010. The GIPA Act introduced a new right-to-information system. It addresses personal and non-personal information held by government.
The GIPA Act gives you the right to be given access to information you ask for unless there is an overriding public interest against release.
Government information is any record held by OEH, by a private sector entity or the State Records Authority to which OEH has an immediate right of access, or a record that is in the possession or under the control of a person in his or her capacity as an OEH officer. A record means any document or other source of information compiled, recorded or stored in written or electronic form or in any other manner or by any other means.
Yes. All NSW government agencies, including government departments, government Ministers and their personal staff, public authorities and offices, local councils and courts have to release information as set out in the GIPA Act.
There are four ways in which OEH's information is made available under the GIPA Act.
1. Mandatory disclosure
The following open access information must be disclosed by OEH free of charge:
2. Proactive release
OEH will proactively release as much information as possible, but sometimes this may not be possible, for instance, if the information concerns another party's affairs. You can ask what further information we will make available, in addition to the information already publicly accessible. Contact the OEH office that you think is likely to hold the information or the Information Centre if you are unsure where the information may be held.
3. Informal release
You can ask for specific information (including your personal information) on an informal basis. Contact the OEH office that you think is likely to hold the information or contact the Information Centre if you are unsure where the information may be held.
We will give you a decision as quickly as possible. If we can't provide a final decision within 20 working days, we will let you know when you can expect a decision.
There is no right of review if you are not happy with an informal decision. If you make a formal application for the information you will then have review rights.
4. Formal release
This is a last resort. You should first see what information is publicly available or will be made available. However, there may be public interest reasons why the information may not be released informally, or a third party will need to be consulted in relation to the release of their business or personal information, in which case a formal application should be lodged.
You can ask for your personal information under the GIPA Act. The GIPA Act defines personal information as information or opinion about a person who can be identified from that information or opinion. Examples include your financial, medical or educational information.
We will try wherever possible to comply with your request for your personal information without the need for a formal application, but you need to prove your identity. Sometimes we may have to ask you to put in a formal application.
- Consider what personal or non-personal information you would like. Would OEH hold the information that you want?
- Contact a OEH Right to Information/Privacy Officer if you would like help with your application.
- Submit your request by way of the application form (10622access.pdf; 25KB) or a letter. If you are sending a letter, in order for it to be a valid request, you need to:
- state that it is an access application made under the GIPA Act
- give an Australian postal address
- give as much information as possible about the information you want and be as specific as possible - this will keep the cost of your application down and help us to identify the information.
- Enclose the $30 application fee with your application form - payment and lodgment details are given on the application form. The application fee covers the first hour of processing time.
We will advise you within five working days of receiving your application if it is valid under the GIPA Act. If it is not valid, we will tell you why and help you to make it valid.
We will then process your application by searching for the information or let you know if it is more appropriate for your application to be dealt with by another agency.
In processing your application, we may have to consult other people, businesses or government agencies on the release of information that relates to them. We will then decide your application.
If we decide to defer access, we will give you reasons for deferral and the date on which you will be given access.
We will try to deal with your request as soon as possible and within 20 working days of receiving your application. If we need to consult a third party or we need to retrieve archived records, the 20 day period will be extended by 10-15 days. We may not always be able to meet these timeframes, for example, if there is a large amount of information or many people to consult. We will let you know if this is the case and negotiate a longer timeframe with you.
If we do not decide your access application within the deadline, it is deemed to be refused. We will continue to process your application, but your application fee will be refunded and you may seek a review of this deemed refusal. This will not apply if an extension of time has been arranged or payment of an advance deposit is pending.
In addition to the $30 application fee, we may charge $30 per hour after the first hour to search for and copy the information (unless you have asked for your personal information), with a 50% reduction if you can show you would suffer financial hardship or you can show the information is of special benefit to the public generally. In this case you need to provide supporting evidence.
We may also ask for an advance deposit if significant resources or costs are involved in processing your application. You will be given four weeks to pay the deposit. The time allowed to finalise your application does not include the time waiting for an advance deposit to be paid. Any deposit paid will be refunded if we do not decide your application in time.
You may be given access to photocopies of the information or on CD, DVD or by email to minimise the impact on the environment.
We try to make information available wherever possible. However, you may not be able to obtain information if there is an overriding public interest against release. This can apply to information such as:
information that would breach another person's privacy
information that would prejudice someone's business, commercial, professional or financial interests
information that would affect law enforcement and security
information relating to sensitive threatened species and Aboriginal cultural heritage issues.
We can only refuse access to information if the public interest against disclosure outweighs the general public interest in favour of disclosure. There is no limit to the matters we can take into account in favour of releasing information. We will let you know the reasons if we decide not to release information.
We can also refuse an application if:
your request would take an unreasonable and substantial amount of time and resources to process - we will help you refine your application so that we can process it
you do not pay a deposit that we may ask for
the information you ask for is already publicly available
we have already decided a previous application from you for the information (or information that is substantially the same) and there are no reasonable grounds for believing that we would make a different decision
the information is or has been the subject of a subpoena or other court order for the production of documents and is available to you because we have complied with the subpoena or court order
we do not hold the information.
We may also refuse to confirm or deny that information is held by OEH because there is an overriding public interest against disclosure of information confirming or denying that fact.
You can have the following decisions reviewed by OEH, the Office of the Information Commissioner and/or the Administrative Decisions Tribunal:
a decision that your application is not a valid access application
a decision to transfer your application to another agency
a decision to refuse to deal with your application (including a decision that is deemed to have been made because we didn't meet the decision deadline)
a decision to provide access or to refuse to provide access to information sought by you
a decision that government information is not held by OEH
a decision that information applied for is already available to you
a decision to refuse to confirm or deny that information is held by OEH
a decision to defer the provision of access to information
a decision to provide access in a particular way (or a decision not to provide access in the way asked by you)
a decision to impose a processing charge or to require an advance deposit
a decision to refuse a reduction in a processing charge
a decision to refuse to deal further with your application because you did not pay an advance deposit within the time required for payment
a decision to include information in a disclosure log
despite your objections (or a decision that you were not entitled to object).
You can ask for a decision to be reviewed if you are the access applicant or if OEH has decided to give an applicant access to information that relates to your business or personal information contrary to your objections.
An internal review is conducted by someone senior to the person who made the decision. The reviewer will make a new decision as if the original decision had never been made.
You can apply for an internal review within 20 working days of a decision (or, if we don't decide your application in time, within 20 working days of the date it should have been decided which is the date of deemed refusal). To apply, fill out an internal review application form (10623review.pdf, 22KB) or send us a letter putting forward your reasons why the decision should be changed.
A $40 application fee is payable. Details on payment of the application fee and how to lodge the review application are given on the application form.
You do not need to pay an internal review application fee if we did not decide your application on time. No other fees are involved. The internal review fee may be refunded if the review decision is significantly different from the original decision.
The internal review will be decided within 15 working days of receiving the application for an internal review. This may be extended up to 10 working days if we need to consult another person whom we did not previously consult, or by agreement with you.
If you formally applied for information and you are not happy with the internal review decision or do not want one, you can ask for a review by the Office of the Information Commissioner. You will have eight weeks to ask for this review.
Other people who are affected by a decision they are not happy with must first apply for an internal review before applying to the Information Commissioner.
There is no cost involved in seeking a review by the Information Commissioner.
The Information Commissioner can make recommendations to OEH about the decision, including that OEH reconsider its decision and make a new one (even if an internal review decision has been made).
If you don't agree with the Information Commissioner's or the internal reviewer's decisions or you do not want any of these reviews, you can apply to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal for a review.
If you have already had a review by the Information Commissioner, you will have four weeks from when the Information Commissioner advises their decision to apply to the Tribunal. Otherwise, you will have eight weeks. Contact the Tribunal for advice about the process and any fees payable.
We have to justify our decision to the Tribunal. However, a third party i.e. someone who has not applied for the information but is affected by our decision to release information, who seeks a review, will have the burden of showing that there is an overriding public interest against disclosure of information.
If you receive information after making a formal application and we think people will be interested in it, we will record it on our disclosure log which describes the information that was provided, if it is available to other members of the public and 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 represent or if the information concerns your business, commercial, professional, or financial interests or research.
There are a range of penalties that can be applied under the GIPA Act for the following conduct:
an officer knowingly deciding a formal access application contrary to the requirements of the GIPA Act
directing an officer to make a decision he or she knows is not permitted or required by the GIPA Act
improperly influencing a decision on an access application
knowingly misleading or deceiving an officer for the purpose of obtaining access to government information
concealing, destroying or altering information for the purpose of preventing the release of information.
You can complain to the Office of the Information Commissioner.
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Page last updated: 04 April 2013