The term GIPA is an abbreviation for the Government Information (Public Access) Act (the GIPA Act).
The GIPA Act provides a framework for how the public can access a NSW Government agencies records. This framework identifies rights of access, limitations to these rights, and obligations on Council in relation to making information available to the public. When we speak about making a GIPA request or application, this simply means that a customer seeks access to Council records as per the rights set out in the GIPA Act.
Council has a variety of services and functions which require collection and retention of information. We collect, store and retain a large volume of information which is stored in various forms and places. We have archives where we store historic hardcopy files, we have databases were we input information and electronic records management systems were we store documents and records. We hold onto records for a minimum retention period as set out in the State Records Act 1998, not all information has the same retention period as such, the period of time that we hold onto information, will depend on the class of information it is.
Where possible Council publishes information on our website. However, in some cases it may not be possible or appropriate to publish information online. If you cannot find some information online, you can make a written request to access the information you are seeking. You have the option to make an Informal GIPA Request or a Formal GIPA Application.
Try searching our website
The principle objective of the GIPA Act is to promote open, accountable, fair and effective government in NSW. In line with the principle objective, the GIPA Act classifies some government information as open access information and there is a requirement on Council to make this sort of information publicly available. Where it is reasonable to do so, we will publish open access information on our website. As such it is a good idea to take a look at our website first.
Some of the information that can be found on our website is listed below (we have included links that will take you to the various webpages, or help you download the documents):
What if I can't find what I'm looking for?
Some information may not be published online as we may have identified it as subject to an overriding public interest against disclosure, the information may pre-date our electronic records systems or it would impose an unreasonable additional cost to Council to publish it online. In these circumstances you have two options for seeking access to Council records, these are:
- Informal GIPA Request
- Formal GIPA Application
Read the information below or download the fact sheet here Informal GIPA Request - Fact Sheet(PDF, 125KB)
An Informal GIPA Request is a way to seek access to Council records informally as provided in section 8 of the GIPA Act. This permits Council the option to give you access to information in response to your informal request without requiring you to make a Formal GIPA Application under Part 4 of the GIPA Act.
Section 8 of the GIPA Act creates no legal obligation on Council to grant access informally. This means that:
- Council can impose conditions on the release of information to you including how you can access the information,
- you do not need to pay an application fee, or other costs such as processing charges,
- there is no legislative timeframe imposed on the Council to make a decision, and
- you do not have the right to have Council’s decision reviewed.
How do I make an Informal GIPA Request?
If you’re not be able to find the information you are looking for on Councils website then you can choose to make an Informal GIPA Request. We recommend using one of Council’s Informal GIPA Request forms. We have created two forms to assist our customers in making an informal request for information, these are:
Informal GIPA Request(PDF, 127KB) - Use this form to make a general request for information
Informal GIPA Request – Plans Only(PDF, 126KB) - Use this form if you are seeking access to residential building plans, drawings, blue prints.
You can also submit an Informal GIPA Request online - Apply online for an Informal GIPA Request.
Asking for information
In making a request for information you should be as clear as possible, so we understand what information you are seeking. Avoid asking questions seeking advice, opinion or guidance, rather your request should be limited to seeking access to information, records or data that may be held by Council. Where possible you should identify time periods for the information you are seeking.
Avoid using vague, broad and undefined terms that create an open ended or an indefinite scope of information. Some examples of these terms include, etc…, but not limited to and, any and all. We will not take these terms into consideration when processing your request.
If you cannot clearly identify the information you need access to, then we recommend that you make reasonable enquiries to determine what you need prior to making an Informal GIPA Request.
How long will it take to process an Informal GIPA Request?
The request process will take a minimum of 20 working days (4 weeks), from the date your request is received by Council. Should there be a high level of demand for our services and/or the information being sought is not easily accessible, a request can take up to 6 weeks to be processed.
Requests are placed in a queue and processed in order of receipt. Due to the volume of requests received by Council we do not accept requests for priority processing.
The accessibility of records and the level of demand on our services can affect the time it takes for us to provide a response. As such, this process cannot be expedited, even if you contact Council.
Will Council charge me for an Informal GIPA Request?
The GIPA Act does not provide for agencies to charge for information released informally.
However, Council may advise you that the information you are seeking is extensive, and may invite you to refine the scope of your request. Alternatively, Council may suggest that you lodge a Formal GIPA Application which would require you to pay an application fee of $30 and any additional processing charges required to cover the time and resources needed to deal with your application.
Responses to Informal GIPA Requests
In response to an informal GIPA request Council may:
- Decide to grant you access to the information sought.
- Council may decide how information can be accessed. Documents such as plans, structural drawings, blue prints, and technical reports may be subject to Copyright. Should copyright apply to a record you are seeking access to, Council may be unable to provide you with a copy of the record without the express written permission of the copyright owner. In this situation you will be granted view only access and Council will provide you with the copyright owner information should you wish to contact them to seek consent to obtain a copy of the record.
- Decide that we do not hold the information you are seeking.
- Depending on the age of the information you are seeking there may be a lack of documentation. In some cases Council may not hold the information as it is a matter, service or record that is managed by another Government or corporate agency.
- Decide to decline access to the information sought, decline to process the request informally, or refuse to deal with the request.
- As every request is different, we will assess each request on its own merits. As such when we reply we will provide explanations for our response and advise you of any alternative options available.
Read the information below or download the fact sheet here Formal GIPA Application - Fact Sheet(PDF, 120KB)
A Formal GIPA Application is a process that can be used by a customer who wishes to access records held by Council, that;
- are of a sensitive nature,
- contain personal information of various parties,
- could affect the legislative rights of another person or organisation, or
- will require significant Council time and resources to process.
The Formal GIPA Application process, also known as an Access Application is set out in Part 4, Division 1 of the GIPA Act.
How do I make a Formal GIPA Application?
Section 41 of GIPA Act provides that a Formal GIPA Application must comply with the following requirements:
- It must be in writing and lodged with the correct agency.
- This means that you need to make reasonable enquiries to determine if Council is the correct Government Agency holding the information you want access to.
- State that you are seeking the information under section 41 of the GIPA Act.
- Include your name, postal address and email address for a response.
- Be clear and specific about the information you are seeking, so Council can identify it.
- This means that if you are unsure as to what you need from Council and cannot clearly identify the information you need access to, then you will need to make reasonable enquiries to determine what you need prior to lodging your application for access.
- Pay a $30 application fee.
To assist an applicant to meet the requirements set out above, we have a Formal GIPA Application form available to use. You can download the form here Formal GIPA Application(PDF, 171KB) .
You can also submit a Formal GIPA Application online - Apply online for a Formal GIPA Application.
Asking for information
When telling us what information you want from Council, we recommend that you identify:
- the subject matter of the information you are requesting,
- why the information is important to you,
- will the information assist you in exercising any legal rights,
- provide a date range for the information you are requesting,
- the type of information you are requesting (for example, a report or emails), and
- whether the information is your own personal information.
Avoid using vague, broad and undefined terms that create an open ended or an indefinite scope of information. Some examples of these terms include, etc…, but not limited to and, any and all. Use of such terms can create delays as Council will need to seek clarification from the applicant to avoid misunderstandings when deciding your application.
How long will it take to process a Formal GIPA Application?
The application process will take up to 20 working days, unless you agree to extend the time.
If Council needs to seek further information from a third party or from archives, Council may take, up to, an additional 10-15 working days. Council will tell you if the process will take longer, why and when it will be completed.
If Council does not decide your access application within 20 working days, it is considered a ‘deemed refusal’ and your application fee will be refunded. However, this does not apply if an extension of time has been agreed or payment of an advanced deposit is pending.
What will it cost?
An application fee of $30.
Council may also charge processing fees. Processing fees cover the time and resources needed to locate the information you asked for and decide your application. The GIPA Act, section 65 provides that Council may charge a processing fee of $30 per hour of time taken to deal with your application.
Council can ask you to pay up to a 50% deposit on expected processing costs in advance; this request must be made in writing and you have at least 20 working days to pay.
If you seek access to your own personal information, the first 20 hours of processing time is free of charge.
Am I eligible for a discount?
Concession card holders, pensioners, students and not-for-profit organisations may be able to receive a 50% discount off processing fees. If you believe that a discount should apply, you will need to request it in writing.
You can also apply for a 50% reduction in the processing cost because of financial hardship or ask for a waiver of the fee if the information will be of special benefit to the public.
Do I have any rights of review if I'm not satisfied with Councils decision?
The Formal GIPA Application process gives an applicant rights of review if they are not satisfied with Councils decision. There are three options:
- Internal review by a senior staff member of Council
- External review by the Information & Privacy Commission
- External review by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT)
When Council provides a decision, you will be advised of all your review options.
Section 25 of the GIPA Act requires that NSW Government agencies keep a disclosure log of Formal GIPA Applications, where access to information has been granted and the information may be of interest to other members of the public. Council keeps disclosure logs of Formal GIPA Applications that meet this criteria and publish them below.
Disclosure Log 2020(PDF, 84KB)
Disclosure Log 2019(PDF, 98KB)
Disclosure Log 2018(PDF, 87KB)
Disclosure Log 2016 - 2017(PDF, 126KB)
We understand that there may be circumstances in which members of our community would like to make contact with a private property owner and will approach Council for this information. Unfortunately, we are unable to release personal information that we collect and store to anyone other than to the person the information relates to.
Whilst we will not give you another persons, personal information, you do have the option to authorise Council to send your contact details to the owner of a property with a request that they contact you. This can be done by completing the online, Authorisation to forward contact information to a third party form.
Should you choose to submit an authorisation request, please remember that this is not a GIPA request/application, because it is not a request for information, rather you are authorising Council to send your personal information to another person. The recipient of the correspondence is under no obligation to respond to you and Council holds no authority to make a person respond to you, as such we will not be able to take any further action if you do not receive a reply to your request for contact.
Why can't I get a property owners contact information?
Under NSW privacy laws, Council and its staff are responsible for protecting the privacy of the personal information we collect. The Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (the PPIP Act) outlines the basic obligations on Council to protect the information we collect about individuals.
The PPIP Act defines personal information as, information or an opinion about an individual whose identity is obvious or can reasonably be determined from that information or opinion. Additionally, the PPIP Act states that we cannot release personal information to anyone other than the person the information relates to (section 18). We can reasonably assume that personal information includes:
- a person's name;
- a personal address;
- a person's contact details such as email and phone numbers.
Considering the legal obligations on Council and its staff to protect the personal information we collect, we cannot reasonably give out a property owners contact information without breaching our legal obligations.
Am I able to get the information if my enquiry relates to a fence or tree matter?
Unfortunately, no, we will not be able to give you a property owners contact details if your enquiry relates to a fence or tree matter.
The Dividing Fences Act 1991 and the Trees (Disputes Between Neighbours) Act 2006 provide guidelines and obligations in relation to private property fencing and tree matters. Neither legislation imposes obligations on Council in relation to these matters. Additionally, the PPIP Act and the Privacy Code of Practice for Local Government, provides no relevant exemptions to privacy obligations on Council in these circumstances.
You do have the option to authorise Council to send your contact details to the owner of a property with a request that they contact you. This can be done by completing the online, Authorisation to forward contact information to a third party form.
Is there any information Council may be able to provide?
If our records show that a property owner is listed as a business name, company name or there is a registered real estate agency managing the property then Council will be able to provide you with this information.
Other helpful resources
The below links contain useful information that may be of assistance:
If you have any further questions please feel free to contact Council’s access to information team. We can be contacted by: