2. Information Available

Open Access Information

Council publishes open access information on its website unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure or do so would impose an unreasonable additional cost on Council.  In respect of the latter the Council will make the information freely available in another format, for example in hard copy format for inspection at the Council Administration Office.  

The mandatory proactive release of open access information is provided for by Part 2, Division 1, Section 6 of the GIPA Act.   The types of Council information defined as Open Access Information are set out in Section 18 of the GIPA Act and Section 1 of the Government Information (Public Access) Regulation 2009 (Regulations).

GIPA Act  Section 18:

  1. a publication guide with information about the council’s structure and functions, and listing the type of information that is publicly available (Division 2);
  2. Council’s policy documents (Division 3);
  3. a disclosure log of formal access applications where in council’s opinion the information released may be of interest to other members of the public (Division 4);
  4. a register of contracts worth more than $150,000 that councils have with private sector bodies (Division 5);
  5. Council’s record of open access information that it does not make publicly available on the basis of overriding pubic interest against disclosure (under Section 6).

Regulations Schedule 1:

Section 1  Information about Council
  1. Information contained in the current version and the most recent previous version of the following records is prescribed as open access information:
    1. The model code of conduct prescribed under section 440(1) and the code of conduct adopted under section 440 (3) of the Local Government Act 1993 (LGA),
    2. Code of meeting practice
    3. Annual report
    4. Annual financial reports
    5. Auditor’s report
    6. Management plan
    7. EEO management plan
    8. Policy concerning the payment of expenses incurred by, and the provision of facilities to Councillors
    9. Annual reports of bodies exercising functions delegated by Council
    10. Any codes referred to in the Local Government Act
  2. Information contained in the following records (whenever created) is prescribed as open access information:
    1. Returns of the interests of Councillors, designated persons and delegates
    2. Agendas and business papers for any meeting of local authority or any committee of the local authority (but not including business papers for matters considered when part of a meeting is closed to the public)
    3. Minutes of any meeting of Council or any committee of Council, but restricted (in the case of any part of a meeting that is closed to the public) to the resolutions and recommendations of the meeting
    4. Division of Local Government, NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet  Representative Reports presented at a meeting of Council
  3. Information contained in the current version of the following records is prescribed as open access information:
    1. Land register
    2. Register of investments
    3. Register of delegations
    4. Register of graffiti removal works kept in accordance with section 13 of the Graffiti Control Act 2008
    5. Register of current declarations of disclosures of political donations kept in accordance with section 328A of the LGA
    6. the register of voting on planning matters kept in accordance with section 375A of the LGA
Section 2  Plans and policies

Information contained in the current version and the most recent previous version of the following records is prescribed as open access information:

  1. Local policies adopted by Council concerning approvals and orders
  2. Plans of management for community land
  3. Environmental planning instruments, development control plans and contribution plans made under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 applying to land within the Byron Shire Council area
Section 3  Information about development applications
  1. Information contained in the following records (whenever created) is prescribed as open access information:
    1. Development application (within the meaning of the Environmental Planning and Assessment act 1979) and any associated documents received in relation to a proposed development including the following:
      1. Home warranty insurance documents
      2. Construction certificates
      3. Occupation certificates
      4. Structural certification documents
      5. Town planner reports
      6. Submissions received on development applications
      7. Heritage consultant reports
      8. Tree inspections consultant reports
      9. Acoustic consultant reports
      10. Land contamination consultant reports
    2. Records of decisions on development applications (including decisions on appeal)
    3. A record describing the general nature of documents that Council decides are excluded from the operation of this clause by subclause (2).

(Subclause 2 does not apply to so much of the information referred to in subclause 1 (a) as consists of:  (a) the plans and specifications for any residential part of a proposed building, other than plans that merely show its height and its external configuration in relation to the site on which it is proposed to be erected, or (b) commercial information, if that information would be likely to prejudice the commercial position of the person who supplied it or to reveal a trade secret.)

Section 4  Approvals, Orders and Other Documents

Information contained in the following records (whenever created) is prescribed as open access information:

  1. Applications for approvals under part 1 of Chapter 7 of the LGA and any associated documents received in relation to such an application
  2. Applications for approvals under any other Act and any associated documents received in relation to such an application
  3. Records of approvals granted or refused, any variation from Council local policies with reasons for the variation, and decisions made on appeals concerning approvals
  4. Orders given under Part 2 of Chapter 7 of the LGA, and any reasons given under section 136 of the LGA.
  5. Orders given under the authority of any other Act
  6. Records of building certificates under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979
  7. Plans of land proposed to be compulsorily acquired by Council
  8. Compulsory acquisition notices
  9. Leases and Licenses for use of public land classified as community land

The Copyright Act 1968 (CA) still applies to documentation.  Copyright issues arise when providing copies of, or online access to, documents such as building and development applications, and other documentation received by Council such as letters, plans and reports.  Except for material produced by its staff, or which it has commissioned and acquired copyright in, Council is unlikely to be the owner or licence holder of copyright.  Allowing a member of the public to view a paper document does not require copyright owner’s consent.   However, the copyright owner’s consent is required if any part of a document is to be copied and provided to the public.[1]

Authorised Release of Information

Council will publish as much other information on its website or make the information available at the lowest reasonable cost in another format, for example in hard copy format for inspection at the Council Administration Office.   This other information could include any other information held by Council that has been frequently requested or information of public interest that has been released as a result of other requests.   This other information can be authorised for public release, by an appropriately delegated Council officer, as provided for under Part 2, Division 1, Section 7 of the GIPA Act.   

Informal Release of Information

Council will endeavor to release other information it holds, in response to an informal request for information, subject to any reasonable conditions as Council thinks fit to impose.   Informal access requests are to be authorised for public release, by an appropriately delegated Council officer, as provided for under Part 2, Division 1, Section 8 of the GIPA Act.    This information will be made available by whatever means deemed appropriate by Council.  All informal access to information requests are to be made on an Informal Access to Information Request form, refer Appendix 1.

Notwithstanding the lodgement of an Informal Access to Information Request, Council may require a Formal Access to Information Request (refer Appendix 2) to be submitted where the information sought:

  1. is of a sensitive nature that requires careful weighing of the considerations in favour of and against disclosure, or
  2. contains personal or confidential information about a third party that requires consultation, or
  3. would involve an unreasonable amount of time and resources to produce, for example if it takes in excess 20 minutes for one staff member.

1 Australian Copyright Council 2003, Local Governments and Copyright –  A Practical Guide, Part 6: Public access to documents held by a Council, p. 23.