GOVIS Lunchtime Forum - The Official Information Act in context

Fri, 26th March 2021, 12-1:30pm, Meeting rooms G.02 and G.03, MBIE Head Office, 15 Stout St, Wellington

This forum presentation will offer a brief history of New Zealand citizens’ rights to information.

The Official Information Act turns 40 next year, so it’s been an ever-present companion to public servants’ working lives. But what’s the history behind rights to information, what can New Zealand learn from other countries’ experience, and what’s the future of this key part of our governance?

Presenter: Andrew Ecclestone is a Senior Associate at the Institute for Governance & Policy Studies at VUW, and formerly a Senior Investigator at the Office of the Ombudsman. Before coming to NZ, he also worked on implementation of the UK’s Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Who should attend? Anyone with an interest in wider issues concerning access to official information. People who work for GOVIS member agencies will be given priority for places.

This year we are looking for ways to give you a better in-person and on-line experience. For this forum, there will be 15 minutes for networking before the presentation starts, and another 15 minutes afterwards. The presentation itself (including questions) will run from 12:15 - 1:00pm. To make things a bit more intimate, we are limiting the forum to 80 tickets.

A light lunch will be provided. To get a lunch, you will need to RSVP by 10am on Wednesday the 24th of March 2021.


Key Takeaways:

  • Public servants should try making OIA requests themselves, as private individuals, to understand what the process is like from the requester’s point of view!
  • Norway has developed software for pulling together metadata of all govt information
  • OIA and transparency shouldn't just be about govt accountability in an adversarial sense – this just turns it into a risk management activity for govt. We should aim for open government, two way conversations and consensus building
  • Incentivising OIA response times can lead to some OIA requests being dropped by agencies to make their metrics look better
  • Placing watermarks on released documents made sense in a paper era (in order to tell if information was leaked or disclosed). However some agencies are still doing this, and it makes the documents inaccessible.
  • "Digital that isn't open won't last, and open that isn't digital won't scale" - quote from Pia Andrews