Bade and Gympie Regional Council
(310467, 14 February 2012)
Section 47(3)(e) of the RTI Act – Grounds on which access may be refused
Section 52(1)(a) of the RTI Act – Documents nonexistent or unlocatable
On 30 September 2010, the applicant applied to Gympie Regional Council (Council) under the Right to Information Act 2009 (RTI Act) seeking access to documents relating to obligations on parties with an interest in fulfilling Condition 1.1 of a Negotiated Decision Notice for Development Approval DA10181 (DA). The DA had been submitted by Sunshine Coast Quarries Pty Ltd (SCQ) in relation to the material change of use of premises being the extension of an existing quarry. Condition 1.1 dealt with the contribution to be made by SCQ towards the improvement of Moy Pocket Road as a result of increased traffic generated by the development.
Council located 29 pages and decided to release 7 pages in full and refuse access to 22 pages in full.
The applicant applied for external review alleging that further documents responsive to his application must exist. As a result of further searches requested during the external review, Council located a further 16 pages and proposed to refuse access in full to all pages.
As a result of informal negotiations conducted by the Office of the Information Commissioner during the course of the external review, the issues remaining for determination were:
· whether the searches conducted by Council to locate information responsive to the access application were sufficient to establish that the documents do not exist
· whether additional documents sought by the applicant (Specific Additional Documents) were within the scope of the access application; and
· whether Council could refuse access to 12 of the further pages located, comprising five documents (Five Additional Documents), on the basis that they are outside the scope of the access application.
After carefully considering all of the evidence and submissions, Acting Assistant Information Commissioner Lynch was satisfied that:
· the Specific Additional Documents sought by the applicant were outside the scope of the access application
· the Five Additional Documents had been properly characterised by Council as being outside the scope of the access application; and
· access to further documents could be refused on the basis that all reasonable searches had been conducted and the documents do not exist.