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Data guidelines will expose info refusals

DIA website will list denied Official Information Requests

Official information requests that are refused by government agencies under new open data guidelines, will be detailed on a Department of Internal Affairs website.

Phil Rennie, a Spokesman for Internal Affairs Minister Nathan Guy says all requests for data will be published on the website, www.data.govt.nz, so the request and any refusal will be publicly available.

In addition, any request for release of government datasets under the open-data policy formalised this month, will be treated as a request under the Official Information Act (OIA). If the department declines to release data, the person requesting it will have the same avenue of appeal to the Ombudsman as any other regular OIA request.

The Cabinet Paper, released this month, proposing a formal declaration of an open data policy appears to give agencies an escape clause. "While all public service departments, the Police, the New Zealand Defence Force, the Parliamentary Counsel Office, and the Security Intelligence Service will be required to commit to releasing their data, they will have autonomy to decide what they release and how they incorporate this into their core business activities," the paper states.

The Cabinet Paper, released this month, proposing a formal declaration of an open data policy appears to give agencies an escape clause. "While all public service departments, the Police, the New Zealand Defence Force, the Parliamentary Counsel Office, and the Security Intelligence Service will be required to commit to releasing their data, they will have autonomy to decide what they release and how they incorporate this into their core business activities," the paper states.

However, Guy's spokesperson says the safeguard of the OIA and publication of the request should deter unreasonable refusals.

Public service departments are those listed in the first Schedule of the State Sector Act 1988.

"The government holds data on behalf of the New Zealand public," states the "Declaration on Open and Transparent Government", approved by Cabinet.

"We release it to enable the private and community sectors to use it to grow the economy, strengthen our social and cultural fabric and sustain our environment. We release it to encourage business and community involvement in government decision-making.

"Through this commitment New Zealand citizens and businesses can expect a more efficient and accountable public sector, more services tailored to their needs, along with a greater level of participation in shaping government decisions."

Data will be released under Creative Commons licences, and the policy expresses a preference for using the NZ Government Open Access and Licensing framework (NZGOAL). This provides a set of principles summarising government policy on data release, with a seven-step "review and release" process to ensure all the necessary preparation has been made for releasing the data and effects of the release considered. NZGOAL, however, is not mandatory.


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