Public Access to Council information

Parkes Shire Council is committed to processing all requests for access to documents and information in a timely manner

Your rights to access Parkes Shire Council information are provided in the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW) (GIPA Act) 

Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009

The Act commenced on 1 July 2010 and replaced the Freedom of Information Act 1989 (NSW) and section 12 of the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW).

As part of this reform, the GIPA Act:

  • Upholds rights to information that are designed to meet community expectations of more open and transparent government
  • Maintains there is a presumption in favour of the disclosure of government information unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure
  • Authorises and encourages government agencies to proactively release government information
  • Makes it possible for government agencies to release information informally, without the need to submit a formal access application
  • Requires that a government agency must release information unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure
  • Provides applicants with review rights around information access decisions

Release of information by Parkes Shire Council under the GIPA Act will be determined by the public interest test. As provided by section 13 of the Act, there is an overriding public interest against disclosure of information if (and only if) there are public interest considerations against disclosure and, on balance, those considerations outweigh the public interest considerations in favour of disclosure.

You can find out more about right to information, the public interest test and the ways to access government information under the GIPA Act on the Information Commissioner (IC) website. The IC is an independent statutory authority responsible for overseeing the provisions of the GIPA Act. Please note the IC does not and is unable to provide legal advice to stakeholders.

Accessing Council Information

There are four ways in which government information is available under the GIPA Act:

  1. Mandatory Release

Certain information, referred to as open access information, must be published on the agency's website, free of charge.

  1. Proactive Release

Beyond mandatory release, agencies are encouraged (and authorised) to release as much government information as possible.

  1. Informal Request

Agencies are encouraged to informally release information, by excusing the need for a formal application (and fee) to be submitted.

  1. Formal Application

This is the last resort if information is not accessible in any of the above 3 ways. Decisions made in response to formal applications can be reviewed.

How can I get Council information?

Parkes Shire Council is required to publish the following open access information under section 18 of the GIPA Act:

Council is required to publish the following additional open access information under Schedule 1 to the Government Information (Public Access) Regulation 2009 (NSW) (GIPA Regulation):

  • Information about council
  • Council Plans and Policies
  • Information about development applications
  • Information about approvals, orders and other documents
Application for Open Access Information

Open Information

Open access information must be publicly available for inspection, free of charge by any person at the office of the Local Authority during ordinary office hours.  A copy of the record may be provided to any person for a charge equivalent to the reasonable cost of photocopying.

Parkes Shire Council will endeavour to retrieve archived records and make the information available as soon as practicable after the request is made.

A person does not have the right to inspect documents dealing with:

  • Personnel matters which reveal an individual's personal information
  • Information which may expose a person to a risk of harm, harassment or intimidation
  • Trade secrets / commercial information/residential floor plans
  • Other matters where there is an overriding public interest against disclosure of the information, as described under the above Act

Council reserves the right to delete matter from a copy of a record if inclusion would result in there being an overriding public interest against disclosure of the record.  The Application for Open Access Information can be obtained here or by contacting the Planning & Environment Department on 02 6861 2373.

Proactive Release

Under section 7(3) of the GIPA Act, Council is required to review its proactive release program at least every 12 months, to identify any information we hold that should in the public interest be made publicly available. Clear here to access the information Council has made proactively available.

Informal Request

The informal release provisions under section 8 of the GIPA Act provides Council with the authority to release information without the need for a formal access application.

Information can be informally requested from Council by completing the Informal Request Form and contacting the Right to Information Officer.

Please note the GIPA Act provides no statutory timeframe by which informal requests must be decided within. Council is not required to disclose government information pursuant to an informal request and is also not required to consider an informal request for government information (s8(3)). Council can decide however by what means information is to be released in response to an informal request (s8(4)).

Formal Access Application

If information can't be accessed through any of the above avenues, a Formal Access Application can be submitted to Council. Council will request a formal application be made for information only as a last resort, likely necessary if an applicant asks for a large volume of information, if providing access would involve an unreasonable diversion of resources on behalf of Council (i.e. extensive search, retrieval from archives), or if the information sought involves personal or business information about third parties that must be consulted before the information can be released.

Section 41 of the GIPA Act lists the formal requirements for making a valid access application:

  • Must be in writing sent to or lodged at Council
  • Must clearly indicate that it is an access application made under the GIPA Act
  • Must be accompanied by a $30 application fee
  • Must state a postal address in Australia as the address for correspondence in connection with the application
  • Must include such information as is reasonably necessary to enable the government information applied for to be identified

Upon receipt of a valid access application, Council must give the applicant notice of its decision within 20 working days, although this time can be extended under section 57(2) to consult with third parties or retrieve information from archives. Processing charges at a rate of $30 per hour may also apply as part of deciding the application.

Applicants aggrieved with a reviewable decision set out under section 80 of the GIPA Act have the right to request a review of that decision. This fact sheet outlines available review rights under the GIPA Act.

Where can I get more information about right to information?

Information and Privacy Commission 

  • Email: ipcinfo@ipc.nsw.gov.au
  • Mail: GPO Box 7011, Sydney NSW 2001
  • Visit Level 11, 1 Castlereagh Street, Sydney NSW 2000
  • Call: 1800 472 679 between 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays)
Government Contracts Register

In accordance with Section 27 of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA), Council is required to maintain a register that records information about  each government contract which has (or is likely to have) a value of $150,000 or more.

This requirement however, does not apply to contracts entered into by Councils before commencement of the GIPA Act on 1 July 2010. Alternatively, Council may make some of this prior information proactively available within the contracts register.

You can request information on any contract entered into prior to this date by contacting the Right to Information Officer.

Under Section 35 (2)(b) of the Act, Councils are not required to publish their contracts register on the e-tenders website, making this page the centralised location for all current contracts entered into by Council since 1 July 2010.

Contracts that must be included in the government contracts register are those:

  • Between an agency and a private sector contractor for a value of $150,000 or more, and involve:
  • The contractor undertaking a specific project such as construction, infrastructure or property development
  • The contractor agreeing to provide specific goods or services
  • The transfer or lease of real property.

Employment contracts do not need to be included in the register.

Different classes of contracts

The Act provides for three different classes of contracts, each with different information disclosure requirements.

Class 1 contracts are those that have, or are likely to have, a value of $150,000

Class 2 contracts are class 1 contracts where:

  • There has not been a public tender process and the terms and conditions of the contract have been negotiated directly with the contractor, or
  • The contract was the subject of a tender (whether public or not) but the terms and conditions have been substantially negotiated with the contractor
  • The obligations of one or more parties to maintain or operate infrastructure or assets
  • It could continue for 10 years or more, and the contract involves a privately financed project (as defined by Treasury) or the exchange of significant assets.

If a class 2 contract has a value, or likely value of more than $5 million, it becomes a class 3 contract. Agencies must publish a copy of a class 3 contract on the register of government contracts.

Please find details of any such contracts here.