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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hullo and goodbye to section 12 of NSW Local Government Act

The commencement of the NSW Government Information (Public Access) Act on 1 July also saw repeal of section 12 of the Local Government Act, ending for local authorities the complexity arising from dual rights of access to documents under the LGA and FOI acts. From now on GIPA  procedures apply. Perhaps fitting that this decision (Jeray v Blue Mountains City Council) was handed down last week in proceedings in the Land and Environment Court concerning an application under section 12, and the removal of documents from a file by council staff on legal privilege grounds. It's the first litigation concerning the section in my memory, and points up the unsatisfactory pre 1 July situation that FOI was subject to merits review by the ADT, while section 12 issues were matters that could only be pursued in the Land and Environment Court (and through complaint to the Ombudsman). The decision itself is of no great moment (except the Court set a high hurdle [14] for the applicant in requiring him to specify documents removed from the file that he hadn't seen) but such a rare beast, its worth a mention. Given the repeal, there's unlikely to be more.

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