Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has released the results of a survey of a thousand New Zealanders about our freedom of information laws, the Official Information Act 1982 and the Local Government and Official Information and Meetings Act 1987.
He says the survey shows 78% thought it was important for people to be able to access government information.
“Yet only 60% were aware they could actually ask those agencies to send it to them. While this represents a majority I believe it is a slim one for New Zealand. It suggests that a large section of our population don’t know about this important democratic right.”
The survey was carried out by UMR between 27 August to 3 September. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1%.
Older people aged sixty and over were far more likely to claim awareness (76%) than those under 30 years of age (39%).
There was also a gender gap. Males were more likely to declare awareness at 69% compared to 52% for females.
“Māori were even less likely to declare knowledge with only 49% awareness compared to Pakeha at 63%,” Mr Boshier says.
He says just 13% of those surveyed had requested information. Of those more than half (58%) were successful.
“This shows the law can be effective if people are prepared to use it. Just over half (52%) of those who received information were satisfied and most (83%) felt they received the information at a speed they were expecting it or even faster.”
However, Mr Boshier says 31% of those who requested information did not receive it.
“I think the number of people who missed out on receiving information is unacceptably high. Understandably, the level of frustration was worse for those whose had not received the information with 77% of this group dissatisfied with the response from officials.”