Course 4:

Making friends with the OIA 1982

Is the Official Information Act 1982 the devil in disguise for government officials?

Certainly managing OIA requests can be difficult and time-consuming, particularly when you are juggling your ordinary work responsibilities.

Yet most people working in the public sector who deal with requests have never had proper training in the Act. In fact, once people come to grips with the Act’s key principles and processes, managing  OIA requests becomes much less of an issue for them. They also make better decisions in terms of withholding or releasing information.

So if you want to turn the OIA from the devil into your BFF, then read on!

Course overview

The Official Information Act 1982 (OIA) provides a critical window on government, encouraging openness and accountability. New Zealand’s most well regarded judge, the late Robin Cooke (Baron Cooke of Thorndon) stated that “the permeating importance of the Act is such that it is entitled to be ranked as a constitutional measure”. Release decisions under the OIA are always in the news.

Yet it is not always easy to determine the Act’s main principles, and what, practically speaking, agencies need to do to meet their responsibilities under the Act. It has a number of procedural steps that must be followed. They are not easy to identify, let alone follow properly. There are timelines to be met, obligations to the requester, consultation to be undertaken, and it requires a careful balancing of withholding grounds and the public interest.

And from a purely practical point of view, the OIA is not an easy Act to navigate. The Act has been chopped and changed over the years and is a bit jumbled as a result.

This course breaks the Act down into easy to understand chunks. The knowledge you gain will allow you to confidently and correctly deal with OIA requests.

It takes you through the key sections of the Act, including the principle of availability (section 5), and reasons for withholding information under section 6, 9, and 18. The course also examines practical matters such as the types of information covered by the Act, the form of requests, transfers, deadlines, deletion of information in documents, and the rules around charging for requests. You also learn about the role of the Ombudsman as the neutral umpire and the political interface with ministers when dealing with ‘politically sensitive’ requests.

This is an interesting, informative course filled with plenty of group discussion and real-life case studies.

At the end of the course you will have a good understanding of:

  • the history of the OIA and what it was originally designed to achieve
  • proactive (voluntary) release
  • which agencies are covered by the Act
  • what material can be requested
  • the section 6 and section 9 withholding grounds
  • the public interest test
  • time limits
  • transfers and charging for requests
  • methods of releasing information to requesters
  • how the Ombudsman operates and the role of officials in complaint investigations
Course fee

The fee for course 4 Making friends with the OIA is $680 + gst per person.

Dates and booking info

Course 4 Making friends with the OIA will be held on the following dates in Wellington:

* 26 May 2020 (Tuesday) – click here for the booking page.


This course is fully catered, with tea and coffee on arrival, morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea.

We cater to all dietary requirements, for example vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, and dairy free. You can let us know about any dietary requirements when you book.

Can you run this course in-house for us?

Yes, this course can easily be run in-house within an agency. The course content can be customised to make it specific to your organisation.

If this sounds like you, then get in touch with us and we can talk through the options.

I enjoyed today’s course and feel much more confident with my work involving OIA requests. I think that it was great that daunting areas were simplified, and there was an excellent forum for good conversation.

course participant

Found it most useful applying different sections of both OIA and Privacy Act to different scenarios.

course participant

Very engaging. Legal wording made easy and in lay terms. Loved the case studies.

course participant

Really valuable and really enjoyed it.

course participant

This was by far the best course on the OIA that I’ve been on.

course participant

Great, really enjoyed it! Fantastic to share with other agencies. Great use of case studies.

course participant

I now have a more in-depth knowledge of the OIA processes. The presenter’s teaching style made it really interesting and easy to learn, facilitated great group discussion!

course participant

Great course, extremely beneficial – many people would benefit from doing it.

course participant