Chapter 9: Requests and resources

Guidance for requesters

Many people who wish to request information do not have much knowledge of how best to do so, or even of how the Act works. Nor do some of them understand the sorts of information that the various agencies hold, or the pressures placed on agencies by large requests. We believe it would be useful for a set of guidelines for requesters to be made publicly available. Just as agencies are in need of guidance as to how to handle requests, so are many requesters in need of assistance as to how to make them. The websites of the Ministry of Justice and the Ombudsmen do have information for requesters now, but these are not particularly easy to find and could perhaps be more user-friendly. Requesters need to know the importance of framing requests so that they are manageable, and should be encouraged to call agencies personally if they are in doubt. Consideration might also be given to having an 0800 number which people can ring for advice on how best to request information that they need. That number could best be serviced by the office which oversees the operation of the legislation.

We also note here the advent of the website www.fyi.org.nz. It is a site run by volunteers who send questions to the appropriate agency on behalf of requesters. It publishes the question on the website, and in due course also publishes the responses, and notifies the requester.

R49There should be a set of publicly available, readily accessible, user-friendly guidelines for persons wishing to request official information. Consideration should be given to creating a dedicated 0800 number, administered by the oversight office, to provide assistance to requesters.