Hornsby Shire Council
Attachment to Report No. CC93/08 Page 0
HORNSBY SHIRE COUNCIL
“creating a living environment”
Policy Title: document access
Folder Number: F2007/00307
Policy Owner / Division: Corporate & Community Division
Policy Owner / Branch: Administration Services Branch
Relevant Legislation: Freedom of Information Act 1989 No. 5 (NSW) (See Sections 6, and 16 of this Policy)
Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 No. 133 (NSW) (See Section 15 of this Policy)
Health Records and information Privacy Act 2002 No. 71 (NSW) (See Section 17 of this Policy)
Policy Adoption/Amendment Date: 11 April 2007 Report Number: CC11/07
Review Year: 2009
Amendment History: 12th March 1997 (Report CC37/97)
9th July1997 (Report CCD90/97)
8th April 1998 (Report CC38/98)
13th March 2002 (Report CC1/02)
9 March 2005 (Report CC6/05)
9 August 2006 (Report CC51/06)
Policy Purpose / Objectives:
1. To facilitate timely public access to documents held by Council.
1. Members of the public may inspect, free of charge, the current version of the documents listed in Section 12(1) of the Local Government Act.
2. Members of the public may inspect, free of charge, preceding versions of the documents listed in Section 12(1) of the Local Government Act, if those versions are reasonably accessible.
3. Members of the public may inspect any other Council documents free of charge, except:-
a) Where access to the document would, on balance, be contrary to the public interest (refer to Paragraph 4 of this Policy);
b) Any part of a document dealing with personnel matters concerning particular individuals other than Councillors;
c) Any part of a document dealing with the personal hardship of any resident, ratepayer, or other person;
d) Any part of a document dealing with trade secrets;
e) Information which would, if disclosed, prejudice the maintenance of law;
f) Matters affecting the security of the Council, Councillors, Council staff or Council property;
g) Any part of a document dealing with a matter, the disclosure of which, would constitute an offence against an Act or found an action for breach of confidence;
h) Plans and specifications for any residential parts of a building, other than plans that merely show its height and its external configuration in relation to the site on which it is erected, except where the applicant is the owner or the owner’s consent has been obtained to view the plans and specifications;
i) Commercial information of a confidential nature which would, if disclosed, be likely to prejudice the commercial position of the person who supplied it; confer a commercial advantage on a competitor of the Council; or to reveal a trade secret;
j) Information which would, if disclosed, confer a commercial advantage on a person with whom the Council is conducting, (or proposes to conduct) business;
k) Any part of a document that contains matter that would be privileged from production in legal proceedings on the ground of legal professional privilege.
4. For the purposes of this policy Council has determined that it would, on balance, be contrary to the public interest to allow access to the following:
a) The name and address of a person contained in a council document, where that person has specifically requested that such details not be released, and where the Public Officer, following consultation with that person, has determined that the release of the details would be contrary to the public interest. (NB: where the name and address of a person is withheld, the content of the document may still be made available.)
b) Documents providing commercial information which, in the opinion of Council’s Public Officer, if released could have an unreasonable adverse effect on a person or organisation, may jeopardise Council’s position in any future negotiations, or may jeopardise Council’s ability to obtain such information in the future.
c) Documents containing information which, in the opinion of Council’s Public Officer, if released could jeopardise Council’s position in relation to the negotiation of an insurance claim.
d) Tenders and expressions of interest lodged with Council and evaluation documentation, except so much of the information as is required to be made available under Part 7 of the Local Government (General) Regulations 2005; i.e. the name and amount of the successful tenderer.
e) The name and address of property owners and property sales information except where; the property owner is the person requesting the information; an adjoining owner is requesting the information for fencing or other purposes allowed by statute; the information is contained on a public register which Council is required to maintain and make available for inspection in accordance with the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act; the information is given out in the course of processing an application before Council; the information is required by another government agency to carry out a legitimate function of that agency; the information is obtained by inspecting a Council document under this Policy.
f) Other documents the release of which, in the opinion of Council’s Public Officer, would, on balance, be contrary to the public interest.
Where access to a document is restricted in accordance with Paragraphs 3 and 4 of this Policy, the applicant will be advised in writing of the nature of the restricted document/s and the reason for the restriction.
5. Where applications from individuals or groups under this Policy are considered to be excessive, or where the processing of applications would cause an unreasonable diversion of Council resources, Council may place specific limits on dealing with such applications. In this regard, the demands of responding to requests may be considered excessive if:
a) Access to more than ten single electronic documents or two single hard copy file parts is requested.
b) More than three Document Access Applications in a three month period is lodged by an individual or group.
Any rejection of Document Access Applications in accordance with the above may be the subject of an appeal to the General Manager or his delegate.
6. Refusal to process applications under this Policy does not prevent the applicant from seeking access under the Freedom of Information Act (see Section 16 of this Policy)
7. The processing time service goal for Document Access Applications is to be less than the time allowed for determination of an application under the Freedom of Information Act (currently 21 days).
8. Copies of documents are available on request at the current copying charge except for the following documents, which cannot be copied:-.
a) The residential roll of electors;
b) The information sheets of candidates for election;
c) Building certificates, unless the consent of the owner of the building is obtained;
d) Bulk property information such as development consent registers, sales registers, etc unless the information is required by a government agency for statistical or other purposes consistent with the legitimate functions of that agency.
9. Applicants may not alter a document or file in any way. However, an applicant may request that a document containing their personal information be altered in accordance with Section 15 of the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act, 1998 or Division 4 of the Health Records and Information Protection Act.
10. Fees applicable to this policy shall be determined as part of the fees and charges for each year.
11. Where Council invites or requests any person or organisation to provide information to Council including applications, submissions, comments, complaints or objections, the person or organisation will be advised of the existence of this Policy, the purpose for which the information is being collected by Council and the possibility that the information they provide to Council may be made available to a third party, subject to the public interest test as outlined in Clause 4 a) of this Policy. Council will also provide relevant details of this policy in the form of a regular advertisement in local newspapers.
12. Access to documents will be in accordance with relevant Council procedures.
13. Council will review reasons for restrictions to access documents every three months in the form of a report to Council where required.
14. Nothing in this policy requires Council to retain documents for any period beyond that specified in the General Records Disposal Schedule for Local Government.
Other Relevant Legislation.
15. Applications for access or amendment to personal information in accordance with Sections 14 and 15 of the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 will be dealt with under that Act, independently and distinct from the provisions of this policy.
16. Applications for access or amendment to information made under Sections 17 and 35 of the Freedom of Information Act will be determined in accordance with the provisions of that Act, independently and distinct from the provisions of this policy.
17. Applications for access or amendment to health information in accordance with Sections 26 and 33 of the Health Records and information Privacy Act will be dealt with under that Act, independently and distinct from the provisions of this policy.