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Accessing RDA-NR Information – the GIPA Act

The NSW Freedom of Information Act (1989) has been replaced by the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act 2009), resulting in substantial changes to freedom of information. The new Act promotes a proactive approach to freedom of information, stating that formal access applications should be a last resort. It confers a legally enforceable right of access to information, subject to certain grounds for refusal. The Act makes it mandatory to release some of the agency’s information including:

  • current publication guide
  • policy documents
  • register of contracts valued at $150,000 or more

The “Right to Information” contact person is Donna McIntyre. Donna can be reached Monday to Fridays 9.00 am – 5.00 pm on 6622 4011 or by email admin@rdanorthernrivers.org.au. To find out more choose any of the following options:

What is public access to government information?

The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW) replaced the Freedom of Information Act 1989 (NSW) on 1 July 2010. It established a comprehensive new system for public access to government information. Government information is any information held by RDA-Northern Rivers, or a record that is in the possession or under the control of a person in his or her capacity as a RDA-NR officer. A record means any document or other sources of information compiled, recorded or stored in written or electronic form or in any other manner by any other means. The objective of the new Act is to make government information more accessible to the public by requiring government agencies to make certain sorts of information freely available; encouraging government agencies to release as much other information as possible; giving the public an enforceable right to make access applications for government information; and restricting access to information only when there is an overriding public interest against disclosure. The public access to government information system is overseen by the Office of the Information Commissioner. The Information Commissioner’s roles include:

  • Promoting public awareness and understanding of the Act.
  • Providing information, advice, assistance and training to agencies and the public.
  • Dealing with complaints about government agencies.
  • Investigate agencies’ systems, policies and practices.
  • Reporting on compliance with the Act to the Minister responsible.

You can get more information about the Office of the Information Commissioner and the Freedom of Information reform process at www.oic.nsw.gov.au. It should be noted that the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 complements other regimes by which the public can access information held by government. It does not detract from any other rights of access to information that exist under other legislation or policies. Other legislation that may be particularly relevant includes:

  • The Personal Information and Privacy Protection Act 1998, which allows individuals to obtain access to, and to apply for amendment of, information held about them by NSW government agencies (more details see the website of the NSW Privacy Commissioner).
  • The Court Information Act 2010, which provides for public access to information held by Courts about judicial proceedings (for more details see the Lawlink website).

How you can access our information?

There are four ways you can get more information from RDA-NR under the GiPA Act.

1. Mandatory Disclosure: Search on this website

RDA-NR publishes a large volume of material on this website. We try to release as much government information as possible, either through our website or in another appropriate way, and free of charge or at the lowest reasonable cost. Under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009, certain information is required by law to be available on our website, free of charge. This is called “open access information” and includes our:

  • publications
  • policy documents
  • publication guide
  • register of contracts valued at $150,000 or more

2. Proactive Release

RDA-NR will proactively release as much information as possible but sometimes this may not be possible (e.g. where the information concerns another party’s affairs). You can ask what further information we will make available in addition to the information publicly accessible. If you cannot find the information you are looking for on this website, you can ask us whether the information has already been released by RDA-NR proactively in some other form (eg., in printed form). You can contact us to ask if the information you are after has been released by RDA-NR either on this website or in another form. Some publications may only be available on the payment of a fee, but we will let you know if that is the case. Contact RDA-NR Right of Information contact person if you are unsure where the information may be held.

3. Informal Release: Make an Informal Request

You can ask for specific information (including your personal information) on an informal basis. If the information you are after has not already been published by RDA-NR, but is information which raises no particular concerns in terms of possible public interest reasons why it should be kept confidential, then RDA-NR may be able to release it to you on request without the formalities of having to make a formal application. If you think this applies to the information you are after you can contact us to make an informal request. Generally, we try to release information we hold without the need for you to make a formal access application, unless there are good reasons to require one. Under the Government Information (Public Access) Act, however, Government agencies are not required to release information without an access application. RDA-NR reserves the right to require you to lodge an access application, particularly if there may be significant public interest considerations that need to be taken into account in deciding whether the information can be released or if you request a large volume of information or if it would otherwise take RDA-NR a significant amount of time to consider your request.

4. Formal Release: Make a Formal Access Application

This is a last resort. You should first see what information is publicly available or will be made available. If the information you are seeking is not available on this website and is not otherwise routinely provided by RDA-NR on request, then you have a right to formally apply for access to specific information. However, there may be public interest reasons why the information may not be released informally or a third party will need to be consulted in relation to the release of their business or personal information, in which case a formal application should be lodged. You can make a formal application by downloading and completing the Government Information Access Form and sending it to us at the following address:

Right to Information Access Person, RDA – Northern Rivers, PO Box 146, LISMORE NSW 2480

The Act says that we are only able to accept access applications that:

  1. Are in writing and sent to us at the address above;
  2. Clearly state you are requesting information under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW);
  3. Enclose the $30 application fee;
  4. Have a return postal address in Australia as the address for correspondence; and
  5. include as much specific information as necessary to enable us to identify the information you are asking for.

If your application does not include these five things, it will be invalid and will not be processed. If that happens, however, we will let you know and we will help you, if possible, by explaining how you can make a valid application. Otherwise we will write to acknowledge receipt of a valid access application within 5 working days, and will deal with your application within 20 working days (subject to any extension allowed for under the Act). If any extension of time is required to deal with your application, we will let you know in writing.

Application fees and processing charges

The application fee for making an access application is $30. Processing charges can also be imposed at the rate of $30 per hour. In some circumstances an advance deposit can be required. We will let you know in writing if that applies to your application. Certain discounts may apply, including on financial hardship and public interest grounds – for more details see the Information Commissioner Fact Sheets.

Access application form

Although there is no legal requirement for you to use any particular form to make an access application (beyond satisfying the five requirements set out above), the Department has created a form that you may wish to use for convenience.

Our Disclosure Log

RDA-NR is yet to receive any access applications under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act). As access applications are received that are likely to be of interest to members of the public, RDA-NR will publish a disclosure log, which will detail our response to applications for information about RDA-NR.

Our policy and tabled documents

Our policy documents guide our decisions, actions and procedures. All our policy documents are available here.

Our Publications Guide

This Publication Guide for Regional Development Australia – Northern Rivers (RDA-NR) identifies who we are, what we do and how members of the public, community organisations, the media and government agencies can interact with us. It is updated regularly, including an annual review each year to ensure that it provides an accurate picture of our work in implementing right to information reforms in New South Wales. We also report annually to the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) on our obligations under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act 2009).

Who We Are

Regional Development Australia is a partnership between the Australian, State, Territory and local governments to develop and strengthen the regional communities of Australia. It has a pivotal role in ensuring the long-term sustainability of Australia’s regions.

RDA-Northern Rivers Inc. is part of the network of 55 RDA Committees across Australia that was formed on 1 July 2009. There are 14 RDA committees in New South Wales.

RDA-NR covers the local government areas of Tweed, Byron, Ballina, Lismore, Kyogle, Richmond Valley and Clarence Valley in northern New South Wales.

The RDA-NR Committee has 10 members, including a Chair and Deputy Chair who are jointly appointed for a three year term by the Commonwealth and State Ministers responsible for Regional Development.  Other members are nominated by the Chair and Deputy and their positions ratified by the Commonwealth and State Ministers.

RDA-NR staff comprises a CEO, an administration manager, a part time research and finance officer and a part-time communications and IT officer.  From time to time, project officers are engaged to undertake specific tasks.

RDA NR also acts as the Regional Certifying body and administers the 187 visas under the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme.

Read more about who we are and what we do »

The RDA Northern Rivers will:

  • Undertake regional planning that takes into account the unique characteristics, opportunities and challenges of a region, and aligns with the plans of all levels of government, and tailors responses accordingly.
  • Engage with stakeholders to identify initiatives that will deliver economic growth that makes a lasting difference to their communities.
  • Build partnerships, harness local leadership, marshal support, and encourage cooperation between stakeholders to drive regional priorities.

How our activities impact on the public

In working for the development of the region, RDA-NR consults, collaborates and (from time to time) enters more formal partnerships with agencies of the Commonwealth and New South Wales governments, industry, local government, business, educational/training organisations, the community sector and individuals.

RDA-NR conducts community engagement activities to inform our regional planning and to provide information to government about the Northern Rivers region. Information is posted on the RDA-NR website when these occur.

Some of our projects involve committees, and some of these include community representatives who provide specialist expertise and knowledge. Current committees with which RDA-NR are engaged include:

  • Sustain Northern Rivers
  • Northern Rivers Digital Economy Taskforce
  • NSW Government Intergovernmental Group
  • South East Queensland RDAs Collaboration
  • Lismore Leaders Group
  • Australian Smarter Communities

 

Stakeholders who would like to participate in the work of RDA-NR can subscribe to our regular  e-news bulletins (click here) indicating their areas of interest or by phoning our Administration Manager on 02 6622 4011. Subscribers are able to change their preferences or unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time.

How the public can access information held by us

RDA-NR’s policy is to be transparent and accessible. The public has a right to access most of the information held by RDA-NR, as long as it does not infringe privacy laws or other laws or may be detrimental to any person. Access to information may occur in one of four ways; open access information, proactive release, informal release and formal access applications as a last resort. In most cases we publish information on the website, if not in total, in summary or lists. If you would like to access information which is not available on the website, please contact our office on 02 6622 4011. Click here for more information on how to access information held by us »

Information held

Information held by RDA-NR includes publications (listed below), promotional material, committee papers and minutes, financial records, staff records, annual business plans, policies and guidelines (listed below) and other information as required by legislation. Other information maintained by RDA-NR includes:

  • databases and records of e-news subscribers;
  • stakeholder and contact databases held in Outlook/Exchange and MS Excel formats
  • raw data from consultations and surveys;
  • correspondence with stakeholders including government departments (including submissions), stakeholders and, from time to time, members of the public;
  • media releases and public communications; and
  • progress and project management reports required to meet contractual obligations.

Publications & Reports

The following publications were proactively released on our website from 1 July 2015 – 30 June 2016).

  • Media releases – available from the RDA-NR website under Latest News
  • Northern Rivers Regional Plan 2013-2016 (Update) (May 2016)
  • Northern Rivers Bio Hubs Final Report (May 2016)
  • Northern Rivers Digital Activation Plan (June 2016)
  • Beef Industry Snapshot (August 2015)

Submissions

  • Response to NSW Department of Planning Draft North Coast Regional Plan (May 2016)

 Policy Documents

All our policy documents are available here.

Further Information

The “Right to Information” contact person can be reached Monday to Fridays 9.00 am – 5.00 pm on 6622 4011 or by email admin@rdanorthernrivers.org.au. Relevant links for more information are available at the end of this page.

Review dates

  • Review Date: 1 June 2017

Our register of contracts

Contracts over $150,000

Contract TitleAgency/OrganisationContract PeriodContract Value
Operational Funding ContractCommonwealth of Australia represented by the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government 1 July 2013 – 30 June 2016 Variation to 31 December 2017 Extended to 30 June 2013Base operational funding $237,714 (2013-14, 2014-15) Supplementary funding for Chair duties $7290 (each financial year) Supplementary operational funding $25,000 each financial year) $270,004 (2015-16) $270,004 (2016-17)
 

How you can get more information?

  • Refer to the GIPA Act
  • Refer to the Office of the Information Commissioner’s website, email oicinfo@oic.nsw.gov.au or phone 1800 463 626.
  • Refer to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal website

Complaints

How you can complain about your dealings with RDA-Northern Rivers in relation to the GIPA Act? You can complain to the Office of the Information Commisioner.

Related Links

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