The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW)(GIPA Act) replaced the Freedom of Information Act 1989 on 1 July 2010. It introduced a new right to information system designed to meet the community's expectations of a more open and transparent government.
The new system is focused on making government information more readily available.
This means that a government agency, such as Coffs Harbour City Council, must release information unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure.
What does that mean for Coffs Harbour City Council?
Where there is a presumption in favour of the disclosure of Coffs Harbour City Council's information, there are four ways in which it will be made available to the public by:
Mandatory release: The GIPA Act requires that certain information must be made publically available by Council that is also referred to as "open access information". Council must include this information on Council's website and if this is not possible, access is provided in another way free of charge. This information includes Council's policy documents, the information guide, a disclosure log, register of government contracts and other information specified by the GIPA Regulation 2009. You may refer to the table that details this
Publicly Available Information and how to access the listed information.
Proactive release: Council must conduct yearly reviews to consider releasing more information to the public on Council's website or by any other means, either free of charge and at the lowest reasonable cost.
Informal release: You can request Council to provide specific information that is not publicly available nor proactively released on Council's website or by other means. Council aims to release information without the need for a formal application. You may contact Council in person, by phone, email or in writing to specify your requirements. If you prefer you may complete an Informal Access Request form.
Formal release: This is the last resort, if you haven't been able to get the information through an Informal Access Request. You must lodge your request in writing stating that it is a Formal Access Application under the GIPA Act, include payment of the $30 application fee, provide a postal address for corresponding with you on this application and specify the information you seek to enable that it can be identified by Council. Alternatively, you may complete a
Formal Access Application.
You can find out more about making an access request, including the forms you need to do so.
Information Guide is produced pursuant to Section 20 of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 ("GIPA Act").
This document describes and identifies the following:
the structure and functions of Coffs Harbour City Council
the ways in which its functions effect members of the public
specifies arrangements that enable members of the public to participate in the formulation of Council's policy development and the exercise of its functions
identifies the various kinds of information held by the Council
the kinds of information the Council makes, or will make, publicly available
the kinds of information that are, or will be, made publicly available free of charge and those kinds of information for which a charge is, or will be, imposed.
Council collects personal information of property owners for the stated purpose of issuing Rates and Charges pursuant to the Local Government Act, 1993. In addition property owners are advised via their rate notice that their personal information may be used by officers and agents of Council and other Government Agencies as required by law.
As Council's Rates Register is not a public register - property ownership information (including postal addresses) in most circumstances can not be released, except on reasonable grounds that the disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to the life or health of the individual concerned or another person. In this instance, Council's Public Officer is responsible for making these decisions and can be contacted on 02 6648 4000.
Council uses a development application tracking system (DA Tracker) which the public can access to review development applications and check on their progress. The system does not provide access nor have the ability to allow the public to view supporting documents, for example application, plans, approval/consent etc.
You can search for recent development applications on DA Tracker and register to receive email or SMS alerts for DAs in your area by registering for planning alerts.
The following information relating to development applications is also prescribed as open access according to Schedule 1 of the Government Information (Public Access) Regulation GIPA Regulation:
- home warranty insurance;
- construction certificates;
- occupation certificates;
- structural certification documents;
- town planner reports;
- submissions received on development applications;
- heritage consultant reports;
- tree inspection consultant reports;
- acoustics consultant reports;
- land contamination consultant reports;
- records of decisions made on development applications (including decisions made on appeal)
The GIPA Regulation provides for the following exceptions to these open access information requirements i.e.:
- The plans and specifications for any residential parts of a proposed building other than plans merely showing its height and external configuration (however, Council will informally release the residential floor plans where the written consent of the property owner is provided);
- Commercial information, if the information would prejudice the commercial position of the person who supplied it or reveal a trade secret.
If the information you are searching for is not on Council's website, you can pursue it by making an Informal Access Request.
Further information and any technical enquiries relating to current development applications can also be obtained by contacting the assessing officer handling the matter.