Public Interest Test

Skip navigation

You are here: Homepage > FOI Fundamentals > Making a Request > Public Interest Test

The public interest test ensures that if a record is legally exempt, but on balance, the factors favouring disclosure and non-disclosure are equal, it may be released if it is in the public interest (s.6(5) and s.2(6)).

The public interest test applies to a number of exemptions and requires the Information Manager to determine whether information which is exempt should be released in the public interest. This means that if the benefit to the public is going to be greater than the harm to the authority, the country or other people affected, the authority must release the information. It must explain the reasons for this decision

The term "Public Interest" is not defined in the Law but may include information which would

  • promote greater public understanding of the process and decisions of government;
  • provide reasons for decisions taken by government;
  • promote the accountability of and within government; and/or
  • promote accountability for public expenditure or the more use of effective use of public funds.

Most of the exemptions are not "Absolute Exemptions." Seven of the exemptions in the Law are subject to a public interest test (s.26):

  • national economy (s.18(1));
  • opinions, advice or recommendations prepared for Cabinet (s.19(1)(a));
  • deliberative process (s.20(1)(b)(c)(d));
  • trade secrets & commercially sensitive information (s.21);
  • heritage sites & endangered species (s.22);
  • personal information (s.23); and
  • health and safety (s.24).

Last Updated: 2008-11-20