Access to Information held by Council
Bellingen Shire Council is committed to the principle of open and transparent government.
Under the provisions of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (the ‘GIPA Act’) there is a right of access to certain information held by Council, unless there is an overriding public interest against its disclosure.
Bellingen Shire Council holds information in various formats in respect of a wide range of functions undertaken by it and information, which is pertinent to different issues relating to the Bellingen Council local government area.
Council has an electronic and “physical” file system.
The main types of "physical" files held by Council includes general subject files, development and building files, property files as well as street and park files, relating to Bellingen Shire Council.
There are four ways in which government information is available under the GIPA Act:
1. Mandatory release: Certain information, referred to as open access information, must be published on the agency's website, free of charge.
2. Proactive release: Beyond mandatory release, agencies are encouraged (and authorised) to release as much government information as possible.
3. Informal request: Agencies are encouraged to informally release information, by excusing the need for a formal application (and fee) to be submitted.
4. Formal application: This is the last resort if information is not accessible in any of the above 3 ways. Decisions made in response to formal applications can be reviewed.
Any applications made under the GIPA Act will be processed in accordance with the requirements of the Act.
Open Access Documents
Access to this information is freely available, much of it on this website. Where it is not available on the website (because it would impose an unreasonable cost to Council to place it on its website), it is available on request at Council's offices at 33 Hyde Street, Bellingen. If copies of this information are required, a photocopying charge will apply.
Council is required to publish the following open access information under section 18 of the GIPA Act:
- Agency Information Guide - Updated January 2018
- policy documents
- disclosure log of access applications
- register of government contracts
- record of open access information not publicly available
- other information as prescribed by the regulations as open access (see below)
Council is required to publish the following additional open access information under Schedule 1 to the Government Information (Public Access) Regulation 2009 (NSW) (GIPA Regulation):
- Information about council
- Information about development applications
- Information about approvals, orders and other documents
The Regulation requires that these documents be made publicly available on Council’s website and for inspection at Council’s office and for copying (subject to Council’s photocopying fee) unless putting the information on the web would involve an unreasonable cost or be contrary to either the public interest or the Information Commissioner’s Guidelines.
As resources permit, Open Access information will be placed on the website.
The following documents are defined as “Open Access Information” under Section 18 of the GIPA Act and will be released or provided for viewing, without the need for a Formal Access Application:
Information about Council
- The Model Code (Code of Conduct) prescribed under section 440 (1) of the LGA.
- Councils adopted Code of Conduct.
- Code of Meeting Practice.
- Annual Report.
- Annual Financial Reports.
- Auditor’s Report.
- Management Plans – pre 2010.
- Integrated Planning and Reporting – Post 2010.
- EEO Management Plan.
- Policy on the Payment of Expenses Incurred by, and the Provision of Facilities to, Councillors.
- Annual Reports of Bodies Exercising Functions Delegated by Council.
- Any Codes referred to in the Local Government Act.
- Returns of the Interests of Councillors, Designated Persons and Delegates.
- Agendas and Business Papers for any meeting of Council or any Committee of Council.
- Minutes of any meeting of Council or any Committee of Council.
- NSW Office of Local Government Representative Reports presented at a meeting of Council.
- Land Register.
- Register of Delegations.
- Register of Graffiti removal works.
- Register of current Declarations of Disclosures of Political donations.
- Register of Voting on Planning Matters.
2. Plans and Policies
- Local Policies adopted by Council concerning approvals and orders
- Plans of Management for Community Land.
- Environmental Planning Instruments, Development Control Plans and Contribution Plans.
3. Information that is included in Development Applications
- Development Applications and any associated documents received in relation to a proposed development including:
- Construction Certificate.
- Occupation Certificates.
- Submissions received on Development Applications.
- Heritage Consultant Reports.
- Tree Inspections Consultant Reports.
- Acoustic Consultant Reports.
- Land Contamination Consultant Reports.
- Records of decisions made on or after 1 July 2010 on Development Applications (including decisions on appeals). Please note: if a record of decision made prior to 1 July 2010 is required, a Formal Application Request for Information with payment of the relevant fee is to be submitted to Council.
- Records describing general nature of documents that Council decides to exclude from public view including internal specifications and configurations, and commercially sensitive information.
Disclaimer – Privacy and Copyright
The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act) provides that anyone may inspect, free of charge, certain documents held by a Council, including (among others) Development Applications and associated documents. A Council complying with its obligation under the GIPA Act does not breach copyright law. However a person who through this process obtains a copy of a survey or other plans subject to copyright, would be in breach of copyright law if those plans were later used in a way adverse to the interest of the holder of the copyright. If you do copy, reproduce, republish, upload to a third party, transmit or distribute in any way plans, building specifications or other documents subject to copyright, contrary to the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) you will be taken to have indemnified Bellingen Shire Council against any claim or action in respect to breach of copyright.
4. Approvals, Orders and Other Documents
- Applications for approvals under part 7 of the Local Government Act (LGA) and associated documents.
- Applications for approvals under any other Act and any associated documents received.
- Records of approvals granted or refused, any variation from Council Policies with reasons for the variation, and decisions made on appeals concerning approvals.
- Orders given under Part 2 of Chapter 7 of the LGA, and any reasons given under section 136 of the LGA.
- Orders given under the Authority of any other Act.
- Records of Building Certificates under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
- Plans of land proposed to be compulsorily acquired by Council.
- Compulsory Acquisition Notices.
- Leases and Licenses for use of Public Land classified as Community Land.
Mandatory Release of Open Access Information
We recognise that not all Open Access information is available on our website at this point in time. If the Open Access information you are seeking is not available on our web site, you can request it via email.
Open Access information is also available for viewing at our office at 33 Hyde Street, Bellingen.
Access to Open Access information is free of charge.
Proactive Release of Open Access information
In addition to open access information, Council will make as much other information as possible publicly available, unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure.
Such information may include information frequently requested or information of public interest that has been released as a result of other requests.
Informal Release of Information
Access to information which is not available as Mandatory Public Release (open access) or Proactive Release may be provided through Informal Release.
Council retains the discretion to require a formal release application in appropriate circumstances, for example where:
- searching for and retrieving the information sought would require a significant diversion of resources;
- the material contains information about a third party that cannot easily be deleted or without rendering the information useless, and consultation would need to occur;
- the material is sensitive in nature and requires public interest test considerations.
There is no legislated timeframe for the processing of informal applications and whilst Council has a general performance indicator of 15 working days for correspondence, applications of this nature may be time consuming and/or complex, falling outside of this timeframe. To assist the timely processing of your application, please ensure your application clearly states the exact information you require. Complex requests may take longer and, in these cases, Council will contact the applicant and advise an expected timeframe.
As per proactive release methods, Council is authorised to release information unless there is a public interest against disclosure. To enable the release of as much information as possible, Council is also authorised to redact content from a copy of information to be released, if the inclusion of the redacted information would otherwise result in an overriding public interest against disclosure.
If you require access to information that is not Open Access information, you should complete the Informal Information Request Application (PDF 167.01KB) and lodge it with Council.
Informal release is free, except for copying charges (if applicable).
Please note the GIPA Act provides no statutory timeframe by which informal requests must be decided within. Council is not required to disclose government information pursuant to an informal request and is also not required to consider an informal request for government information (s8(3)). Council can decide however by what means information is to be released in response to an informal request (s8(4)).
Prior to lodging a formal access application, a person seeking information from Council should check if the information being sought is already available on Council’s website or could easily be made available through an informal request application.
- is not available via Proactive or Informal Release; or
- involves a large volume of information, requires extensive research and accordingly will involve an unreasonable amount of time and resources to produce; or
- contains personal or confidential information about a third party which may require consultation; or
- is a record of decisions made prior to 1 July 2010 on Development Applications (including decisions on appeals); or
- is of a sensitive nature that requires careful weighing of the consideration in favour of and against disclosure; then
Council requires a Formal Access to Information Application to be submitted.
Section 41 of the GIPA Act lists the formal requirements for making a valid access application:
- it must be in writing sent to or lodged at Council;
- it must clearly indicate that it is an access application made under the GIPA Act;
- it must be accompanied by a $30 application fee;
- it must state a postal address in Australia as the address for correspondence in connection with the application;
- it must include such information as is reasonably necessary to enable the government information applied for to be identified.
Upon receipt of a valid access application, Council must give the applicant notice of its decision within 20 working days, although this time can be extended under section 57(2) to consult with third parties or retrieve information from archives. Processing charges at a rate of $30 per hour may also apply as part of deciding the application.
Application for Formal Access are to be made by completing the Formal Application Request for Information (PDF - 21.56KB)
Completed forms should be submitted to Council accompanied by the GIPA prescribed application fee of $30.00.
Additional $30.00 hourly processing charges may be applicable.
Council has 20 working days (30 if consultation is required with third parties) in which to make a decision about your application.
A formal application gives you rights of appeal to both the NSW Information & Privacy Commission and the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Request for Review of a Decision
Applicants aggrieved with a reviewable decision set out under section 80 of the GIPA Act have the right to request a review of that decision.
Applicants can also request an internal review using Council's Internal Review Application (PDF - 138.03KB).
Nothing in the regulations requires or permits Council to make open access information available in any way that would constitute an infringement of copyright (Section 6.6 GIPA Act). Access to copyright documents will only be granted by with the copyright owner’s written consent. Where authority is unable to be obtained or the copyright owner is not able to be contacted, copies of copyright material will not be provided. These documents include Plans/Drawings, consultant reports, Statements of Environmental Effects and other miscellaneous reports submitted with a DA (please note that this list is not definitive).
Right to Information Officer
Enquiries concerning access to information in the possession of Council should be directed to Council’s Public Officer:
Bellingen Shire Council
Mail: PO Box 117 Bellingen NSW 2454
Telephone (02) 6655 7300
Fax: (02) 6655 2310
Enquiries to Group Leader Governance on 02 6655 7300.
The NSW Office of the Information Commissioner also provides advice on access to information under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009.