Official Information Act requests

The Official Information Act 1982 (OIA) allows people in New Zealand to request government information (official information). It must be made available unless there is a good reason to withhold it.

Many Ministry staff are working remotely during COVID-19 Alert Levels. Many are also contributing to the Government’s response to the situation in Afghanistan. This means we may have reduced capacity to process some OIA requests. We will do our best to make decisions on your OIA request as soon as practicably possible, and to keep you informed of progress if there are likely to be delays.

For your information, the Chief Ombudsman has published updated guidance on OIA requests during the COVID-19 emergency:

The OIA enables citizens, permanent residents, visitors to New Zealand, and body corporates registered or with a place of business in New Zealand, to make a request for official information held by government agencies, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Information can be provided in alternate formats.

Before making a request for information

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is committed to proactively releasing a range of official information and resources about our work. You may find that the information you need is already publicly available.

A wide range of information about our strategic direction, and our work on trade, aid and development, the environment, peace, rights and security, and our bilateral relationships is available on our website.

We also encourage you to check the media and resources section of our website for a wide range of our Ministers' Cabinet papers and minutes, and a selection of our OIA responses.

The Ministry has an active declassification programme that regularly releases historical records through Archives New Zealand. All records that have been transferred by the Ministry to Archives New Zealand are listed on Archives New Zealand’s database Archway(external link).

Information on the Ministry’s functions, responsibilities and structure is also available in the Directory of Official Information compiled by the Ministry of Justice in line with section 20 of the OIA. (Directory of Official Information | New Zealand Ministry of Justice(external link))

How to make an OIA request

Your request should be as clear and specific as possible. Before making a request, check out the sources of information listed above.

Contact us to request official information by:

Email: enquiries@mfat.govt.nz
Telephone: +64 4 439 8000
Mail: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 195 Lambton Quay, Wellington, 6011
Twitter(external link) or Facebook(external link) (please ensure you state that you are making an OIA request).

For media enquiries, please email: media@mfat.govt.nz

We need:

  1. your name
  2. your contact address (email or postal)
  3. the details of the information you want.

We will acknowledge your request and may ask you for more details.

If you make your request by phone or in person, we will either confirm it in writing or, if we’re not sure what you’re seeking, we may ask you to put it in writing.

The Office of the Ombudsman provides advice on making official information requests.

Find out more about the Official Information Act 1982(external link) (Section 12 details OIA requests).

How long will it take?

We are required by law to respond to your request as soon as reasonably practicable, and no later than 20 working days after we receive your request, unless it is extended.

For large or complex requests or those requiring consultation, we may need to extend the time limit for responding, under section 14 of the Official Information Act. If this happens for any particular reason, we will let you know and give you a specific due date.

You can complain to the Office of the Ombudsman(external link) if you’re not happy with our decision to extend the timeframe.

The Office of the Ombudsman also provides guidance on how agencies respond to OIA requests. We will treat each request on its own merits and in line with our responsibilities under the OIA.

You can see data on the number of requests we receive each year and the timeliness of our responses on the Public Service Commission website(external link).

What does it cost?

Requesting official information is free, although we can charge a reasonable amount if it will take a lot of work to supply the information requested. Before applying a charge, we will contact you to see if there is a way we can avoid doing so.

The Ministry must adhere to the guidelines set out by the Ministry of Justice regarding charging for OIA requests.

You can complain to the Office of the Ombudsman(external link) about our decision to charge.

What if I’m not satisfied?

You might want to contact us to see if we can resolve the issue.

Or you can make a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman(external link) if you:

  • have concerns regarding the decision we made on your request, or
  • are unhappy about the way your request was treated or processed.

These concerns can relate to the withholding of information, extending the timeframe to respond to you, any charges for providing the information you have requested, delays in providing you with a decision or the information, or your request being transferred.

The Office of the Ombudsman can choose to investigate and review our decision and may make a recommendation to us if it's considered appropriate.

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