The former Chief Ombudsman, Dame Beverley Wakem, said in a report on the OIA last year that the law does not support “an outright exemption based on the identity of a requester or their role” when considering whether to charge them a fee.
Wakem recommended that agencies review their policies to ensure certain requesters – like media – were not excluded from the rules, so the Reserve Bank could be the first of many to start charging journalists.
Previously it was:
Under the law, government departments and other agencies covered by the OIA are allowed to charge for official information requests.
Most have guidelines which make exceptions for the media, MPs, and the researchers who gather information for political parties – but this may be about to change.
A blanket exemption for certain categories of requesters is not justified. But that doesn’t mean charging should be automatic and the norm. Agencies should charge only where the costs of collation are very significant.
What about wide-ranging requests that could cost agencies thousands of dollars, and take hours to put together?
Ardern says problems with requests like those should be dealt with by speaking to whoever wants the information and asking them to make changes, rather than imposing a hefty sum to access it.
I agree with Ardern. It is far better for an agency to ask if a request can be narrowed down, rather than just charge for a request that will be very time consuming.