- Making requests
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If your question isn't answered here, or you just wanted to let us know something about the site, contact us.
It can be hard to untangle government's complicated structured, and work out who knows the information that you want. Here are a few tips:
- Browse or search FYI looking for similar requests to yours.
- When you've found an authority you think might have the information, use the "home page" link on the right hand side of their page to check what they do on their website.
- Contact the authority by phone or email to ask if they hold the kind of information you're after.
- Don't worry excessively about getting the right authority. If you get it wrong, they ought to advise you who to make the request to instead.
- If you've got a thorny case, please contact us for help.
- You're missing the public authority that I want to request from! #
Please contact us with the name of the public authority and, if you can find it, their contact email address for Official Information Act requests.
If you'd like to help add a whole category of public authority to the site, we'd love to hear from you too.
FYI lets you make requests for information to a range of organisations:
- Those formally subject to the OIA
- Those formally subject to LGOIMA
- Those which voluntarily comply with the OIA
- Those which aren't subject to the Act but have significant public responsibilities.
In the last case, the organisation is not obliged to respond to OIA requests, but we the site still tracks the volume and nature of requests made to provide context for future reviews of OIA law.
- Why must I keep my request focused?#
Please put in your request only what is needed so that someone can easily identify what information you are asking for. Please do not include any of the following:
- arguments about your cause
- statements that could defame or insult others
Short, succinct messages make it easier for authorities to be clear what information you are requesting, which means you will get a reply more quickly.
If you want information to support an argument or campaign, the Official Information Act is a powerful tool. Although you may not use this site to run your campaign, we encourage you to use it to get the information you need. We also encourage to run your campaign elsewhere - one effective and very easy way is to start your own blog. You are welcome to link to your campaign from this site in an annotation to your request (you can make annotations after submitting the request).
- Does it cost me anything to make a request?#
Making an OIA request is nearly always free.
Requests involving substantial collation or research can be refused, or made contingent on a fee being paid. This can be addressed by the Ombudsmen if needed.
- How quickly will I get a response? #
By law, public authorities must respond promptly to requests.
Even if they are not prompt, in nearly all cases they must respond within 20 working days. If you had to clarify your request, or they are a school, or one or two other cases, then they may have more time (full details).
FYI will email you if you don't get a timely response. You can then send the public authority a message to remind them, and tell them if they are breaking the law.
In some circumstances, a request may incorrectly appear as overdue. Most commonly:
- If you ask for further information in a follow-up message (rather than starting a new request) the authority can treat this as a new request and has 20 working days to respond. Our system cannot distinguish this from a clarification so may show the request as overdue.
- If the request is transferred (in whole or part) to another authority, that authority has a further 20 days. However, our system will treat this as all the same request and may show it as overdue.
- What if I never get a response?#
There are several things you can do if you never get a response.
- Sometimes there has been a genuine problem and the authority never received the request. It is worth telephoning the authority and politely checking that they received the request. It was sent to them by email.
- If they have not received it, the problem is most likely due to "spam filters". Refer the authority to the measures in the answer 'I can see a request on FYI, but we never got it by email!' in the OIA officers section of this help.
- What if I'm not satisfied with the response? #
- If you didn't get the information you asked for, or you didn't get it in time, then read our page 'Unhappy about the response you got?'.
- It says I can't re-use the information I got!#
Authorities often add legal boilerplate about the use of the information supplied, which at first glance implies you may not be able do anything with the information.
You can, of course, write articles about the information or summarise it, or quote parts of it. We also think you should feel free to republish the information in full, just as we do, even though in theory you might not be allowed to do so. See our policy on copyright.
- Can I request information about myself? #
No. Requests are public, made under the Official Information Act, and cannot help you find private information about yourself or anyone else. Please do not make such requests through FYI.org.nz.
If you would like to know what information an organisation holds about you, you need to make a Privacy Act request direct to that organisation. We recommend the AboutMe tool from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to help you make your request.
For more information about your right to access your own private information, consult the Privacy Commissioner's guide to Privacy Principle Six.
If you see that someone has included personal information, perhaps unwittingly, in a request, please contact us immediately so we can remove it.
- I'd like to keep my request secret! (At least until I publish my story) #
FYI is currently only designed for public requests. All responses that we receive are automatically published on the website for anyone to read.
You should contact the public authority directly if you would like to make a request in private. If you're interested in buying a system which helps you manage OIA requests in secret, then contact us.
- Can I make the same to request to lots of authorities, e.g. all councils? #
- We ask you to first send a test version of your request to a few authorities. Their responses will help you improve the wording of your request, so that you get the best information when you send the request to all of the authorities. There is currently no automated system for sending the request to the other authorities, you must copy and paste it by hand.
- I made a request off the site, how do I upload it to the archive?#
- FYI is an archive of requests made through the site, and does not try to be an archive of all OIA requests. We don't support uploading other requests. One reason is we wouldn't be able to verify that other responses actually came from the authority. If this really matters to you, you can always make the same request again via FYI.
- How do you moderate request annotations? #
Annotations on FYI are to help people get the information they want, or to give them pointers to places they can go to help them act on it. We reserve the right to remove anything else.
Endless, political discussions are not allowed. Post a link to a suitable forum or campaign site elsewhere.
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