Exemption Schedule Environmental Information Regulations Request IR-2019-118
The exemption ‘Manifestly unreasonable’ as detailed in Section 12 (4) (b) of the Environmental
Information Regulations is a qualified exemption, which means it is subject to the public Interest
Test. The purpose of this test is to establish whether the public interest in withholding the
information outweighs the public interest in disclosing it. WHAT DOES THE ACT SAY?
12(4) For the purposes of paragraph (1)(a), a public authority may refuse to disclose information
to the extent that –
(b) the request for information is manifestly unreasonable
Public interest factors in favour of disclosure
The release of the information promotes accountability and transparency, which is the purpose
of the Environmental Information Regulations. These factors may apply to a wide range of
scenarios from how an individual or an Authority fulfils their role or function.
There is an accepted public interest in allowing individuals to understand the processes and
decisions made by Council, which may affect them, and release of information serves the
public interest if it will enhance accountability or prevent harm.
Public interest factors in favour of maintaining the exemption
While Council recognises there is always going to be a public interest in the disclosure of
information, particularly in relation to environmental matters, it must also consider the burden
placed on departments in having to deal with such requests. Council does not have a central
record or list of “people, groups, organisations who have been given access to or copies of the
South Lake Masterplan”
or details recorded of “when they were given access”.
Council considers there would be a significant burden placed on its resources in having to
collate the information required to respond to this request, which is likely to cause a
disproportionate or unjustified level of disruption.
In the application of regulation 12(4)(b), Council has taken into account wider factors such as
the background and history of the request. In this case, it has considered the requester’s
previous requests and correspondence on this subject matter, as they form part of an overall
picture and contribute to the burden and demand placed on the departments. Council
considers that it has responded to the requester on similar matters, and has clarified its position
in relation to the core subject matter i.e. South Lake Masterplan.
Disclosure of information must serve the interests of the wider public and go beyond those of
a requester. Therefore, Council must consider whether the value of a request outweighs the
impact that the request would have on its resources in providing it. Further information such
as a list of “people, groups, organisations who have been given access to or copies of the
South Lake Masterplan”
will not progress the sum of knowledge about the issue therefore
Council believes there is a strong public interest in ensuring that diverting resources from the
day-to-day duties to respond to requests for information is not disproportionate.
Council notes that previous requests on similar matters have already consumed significant
public resources and recognises that compliance with the present request would place further
burden on departments. Having considered the limited public value of this particular request,
in conjunction with the impact on resources, Council considers compliance with the request to
be manifestly unreasonable.
There is a strong public interest in ensuring that resources are not disproportionately used to
respond to requests for information from an applicant who is clearly dissatisfied about an issue
and seeks to keep it alive until there is a conclusion or resolution the requester considers
favourable. The freedom of information legislation was not designed to achieve this.
Consequently, there is a strong public interest in ensuring that the EIR is not brought into
disrepute from inappropriate or improper use.
It is our determination that the considerations in favour of release are outweighed by
considerations in favour of maintaining the exemption and are therefore refusing release of the
information under Section 12 (4) (b) of The Environmental Information Regulations 2004.