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.

Please be advised that the organisational impacts of implementing the COVID-19 Protection Framework, together with the Ministry’s leadership of the Government's response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, mean that we may have reduced capacity to process 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 this time:

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 ...

... check if the information is already available. The Ministry 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(external link) section of our website for a wide range of our Ministers' Cabinet papers and minutes, and the OIA responses page for a selection of our OIA responses.

The Ministry has an extensive and long-standing declassification programme for its historic files records (25 years or older). Details of recent releases by the Ministry are available on the media and resources(external link) section of our website.

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).

What happens if we are not the right agency?

If we do not have the information you have asked for and we think that another agency or Minister may have the information, we will transfer your request to them. We may also transfer your request if we believe the information you have asked for is more closely connected with the functions of another agency or Minister.

We will do this promptly and within 10 working days, although it is possible to extend this timeframe in certain circumstances. We will let you know if we have transferred your request and who we have transferred it to.

What if we don’t understand your request?

If we don’t understand your request, we will get in touch with you to clarify the information you want to receive.

What happens if you need to change your request?

If you would like to change your request, then you can get in touch with us(external link) and make a change. If you do change your request we will let you know whether this will impact on the time it will take us to respond.

Can you request information about yourself?

As an individual you can request information about yourself. Requests for personal information are processed under the Privacy Act.  

Companies or incorporated societies can also request information about themselves. These requests are considered under the OIA rather than the Privacy Act.

We will always make sure to tell you whether we have responded to your request under the OIA and/or Privacy Act.

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).

How do we make a decision on your request?

We will find all the information you have asked for and review it carefully. We may need to consult others (for example, other agencies or people who might be affected by release of the information) in order to make our decision on your request.

When will we withhold information?

We will make the information you request available to you, unless there is a reason why we are unable to do so (for example, the information isn’t held or can’t be found) or there is ‘good reason’ for withholding it.

Reasons for withholding are specified in the OIA (sections 6(external link) and 9(external link)). They apply when release would harm a protected interest, such as the maintenance of the law, personal privacy, confidentiality, or commercial interests.

Some reasons for withholding are subject to a ‘public interest test’ (section 9(external link)). As part of our decision on your request we will consider whether there are public interest considerations that mean we should release the information.  We will balance the public interest against the harms that we see from release of the information.  If the public interest is greater than the harm we see, then we will release the information.

When we withhold information, we will tell you which part of the OIA applies. 

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 you are 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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