Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Rewriting the OIA

Almost two years ago, the government announced that it might take a look at OIA reform. After an attempt to do it in secret, they finally asked for public submissions, then summarised them for the Minister, who... sat on them for nine months. But today, after an almost two year journey, Andrew little has announced plans to rewrite the Act:

The Official Information Act will be rewritten, Justice Minister Andrew Little has revealed.


Little said initial work was done last year on the scope of a review of the act but Covid-19 had delayed further progress.

“However, I am committed to a rewrite of the Official Information Act, and this work will take place in association with my colleague Chris Hipkins, Minister of State Services [Open Government].”

There's still no "official" announcement - nothing on the Beehive or Ministry of Justice websites, so we don't know what this "rewrite" will look like. But the Law Commission's 2012 review (which suggested a unified Act covering both central and local government) is the obvious place to start. The danger of course is that "reform" will be used to reduce transparency rather than increase it (something we've seen a lot of in a piecemeal fashion over the last term, and which some groups in the public service are obviously eager for). So its important that the government runs a full public process, and that those of us interested in transparency speak up for it.