The following Policy Statement establishes the EPA's Policy for providing information to internal and external stakeholders.
The EPA seeks to operate openly and transparently, and endeavours to make as much useful information available as may legally be released without unreasonably disclosing the personal information of individuals, information obtained in confidence, or commercially sensitive information including trade secrets.
Principles and Application
In applying this Policy, the EPA is guided by the following principles:
- Honesty, integrity and professionalism in all communications
- Equitable treatment of all sections of the community
- The right for all stakeholders to know about issues that affect them, or that are of legitimate public interest
- Continuous improvement in the EPA's information management systems.
Through regular reporting and statements, the EPA will provide timely and accurate information on key activities and decisions of the EPA.
The EPA also recognises that certain information is prohibited from disclosure by law, including: commercial-in-confidence information and trade secrets; personal information; and information relating to certain Parliamentary, legal and other administrative bodies. The key legislation governing these prohibitions are:
- Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994
- Right to Information Act 2009 and its predecessor, the Freedom of Information Act 1991
- Personal Information Protection Act 2004
The EPA also recognises its related obligations under the Public Interest Disclosures Act 2002.
The implementation of this Policy will be incorporated into the day to day operations of the EPA.
Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994
The Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994 (EMPCA) establishes the functions and powers of the EPA Board and Director and has provisions relevant to information disclosure.
Division 2 of EMPCA specifies the right to access certain information. Under s.22, the Board must keep a register of environmental management and enforcement instruments, including details of environmental agreements, environmental audits, emergency authorizations, financial assurance, environmental improvement programmes and environment protection notices. The Act specifies that, upon payment of a fee, any person is entitled to search the register.
S.23 specifies that the Board or a council must consult with a relevant individual if information intended for inclusion on the register is likely to contain trade secrets. If it appears to the Board or council that a potential trade secret may be made available to the public, and the release of that information would be likely to cause financial loss to any person, the Board or council must consult with that person before including the information on any register kept under EMPCA. There are rights of appeal to the Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal.
EMPCA also contains provisions for disclosing information when undertaking Environmental Impact Assessments. Under s.74(7), the authority responsible for assessing a proposed environmentally relevant activity must publicly disclose all information relating to the environmental impact of the proposal, except where there is a legitimate commercial, national security or environmental reason for confidentiality.
Right to Information Act 2009
The Right to Information Act 2009 (RTI Act) provides for the release of information held by public authorities, unless it is exempt. The RTI Act has four categories:
- required disclosure
- routine disclosure
- active disclosure
- assessed disclosure
'Required disclosure' is information that must be released by law, such as annual reports.
'Routine disclosure' is information that is released on a routine basis, such as assessment information.
'Active disclosure' is information that is publicly available upon request. This allows for information to be released that is not of sufficient interest to be published regularly. Information disclosed under this method is not assessed by an officer delegated under the RTI Act.
'Assessed disclosure' is when an application for disclosure of information is received, and an assessment is made by a delegated officer as to whether there is exempt information.
Personal Information Protection Act 2004
The Personal Information Protection Act 2004 (PIP Act) regulates the collection, maintenance, use and disclosure of personal information by the EPA.
Under s.5 of Schedule 1 of the Act, a personal information custodian must clearly set out its policies on its management of personal information. The EPA has adopted the Personal Information Protection Policy of the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, which is published on the Department's website.
Note: this Policy was first published in August 2013 and updated January 2014 and July 2021.