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For Decision Makers

The information provided in this section provides first time and other inexperienced FOI decision makers with a general overview of the steps involved in the FOI decision making process. It is not intended to provide a comprehensive guide to processing FOI requests or to take the place of specialist advice. While there are overarching principles which guide decision makers in relation to FOI requests all FOI applications must be processed on an individual basis.

The Act

The Freedom of Information Act (1982) (the Act) provides a legally enforceable right of access to documents in the possession of Government Agencies and Ministers.

Agencies must:

  • provide every assistance to identify the documents requested; and
  • make the maximum amount of information available promptly and inexpensively.

An applicant is not entitled to documents which:

  • are exempt;
  • are outside the scope of the request;
  • are publicly available (for inspection or purchase); or,
  • came into existence prior to 5 July 1978 (for most agencies) or 1 January 1989 (for documents held by Councils) unless they are documents relating to the personal affairs of the applicant (there is no time limit for these documents).


Section 21 of the Act states that agencies shall take all reasonable steps to notify an applicant of a decision on a request as soon as possible but in any case not later than 30 days or more if the timeframe is extended (eg. due to mandatory consultation) after the receipt of the request. The 30 days refer to calendar days (including week-ends and public holidays) not working days. The time period commences when a valid request is received by the agency not when it is received by the FOI Officer, so it is important that internal processes are in place to ensure that FOI requests are sent promptly to the FOI Officer.