Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Educating schools about the OIA

Back in February, Christchurch Student Matthew Taylor began publishing the results of a series of OIA requests to schools about school formals and homophobia. The first result was that schools were unfamiliar with (and largely hostile to) their statutory duties under the Act, with over 150 not responding at all, and the majority of the rest demanding to know who he was and why he was asking. Now, the Ombudsman has published guidance on The OIA and school boards of trustees [PDF]. Among that guidance:

OIA requests can be made by any New Zealand citizens and permanent residents or anyone in New Zealand... requesters don’t have to be associated with the school. BOTs can ask a requester for information that is necessary to ascertain whether that person is eligible to make an OIA request. However, they should not impose unnecessary or unreasonable requirements.
(And even if they're not eligible, the response must still be "reasonable" - which generally means handling it under the OIA)


A requester may give reasons for making an OIA request but there is no obligation on them to do so. BOTs can ask for this information if they think it would be helpful in reaching a decision, but they cannot insist that it be provided. BOTs should be careful not to suggest that the supply of reasons by the requester is a prerequisite for getting an answer to their OIA request. If a requester chooses not to state their reasons for making an OIA request the BOT must still fulfil its legal obligations under the OIA.
I think that's a pretty comprehensive spanking for the schools, and hopefully it will result in better OIA compliance in the future.