Lost or destroyed documents – investigating external locations in which they may be held

C and Department of Environment and Resource Management

The applicant applied for access to planning documents relating to the construction of a levee bank near his residence. A number of documents were located by the Department and released to the applicant.

On external review, the applicant submitted that an attachment to one of the emails released to him had not been provided. The Department submitted that it had searched for the attachment but had been unable to locate it.

The Department explained that its email storage system did not automatically archive email attachments unless the recipient of the email had saved the attachment separately. In this instance, the Department concluded that the attachment had not been saved and that it was therefore, unlocatable.

In reviewing the contents of the email, OIC identified that it had been sent to the Department by an officer of a Queensland local council. OIC contacted the council officer directly to seek their view on disclosure. The council officer located the email attachment and did not object to its release. OIC conveyed to the applicant the Department’s explanation as to why the original attachment could not be located and also arranged for the copy obtained through the council to be released to the applicant. The applicant agreed to resolve the review on that basis.


Where documents have been lost or destroyed, agencies may consider contacting other external entities (or other government agencies) where the documents are held, to assist an applicant in obtaining access to information.