Exempt Information and Exempt Documents

What information and documents are exempt under this Act?

A public authority may refuse access to any official documents containing exempt information. The Act defines such documents as exempt documents.

Exempt documents include:

  • Cabinet Documents
  • Defence and security documents
  • International relations documents
  • Internal working documents
  • Law enforcement documents
  • Documents affecting legal proceedings or subject to legal professional privilege
  • Documents affecting personal privacy
  • Documents relating to trade secrets
  • Documents containing material obtained in confidence
  • Documents affecting the economy and commercial affairs
  • Certain documents concerning the operations of public authorities
  • Documents to which secrecy provisions apply

A public authority may refuse access to such documents. Before deciding to refuse access, the authority must try to delete any information that makes the document exempt. Removing all exempt information would make the required document suitable for release and access may be approved. The applicant must agree to accept the document in its amended form before the authority makes the deletions.

Can exempt documents be made available?

Authorities should give access to exempt documents if reasonable evidence that any of the following has or is likely to have occurred:


  • abuse of authority or neglect in the performance of official duty; or
  • injustice to an individual; or
  • danger to the health or safety of an individual or of the public; or
  • unauthorised use of public funds.

The authority is also required to give access to exempt document(s) if it has determined that it would be in the public interest to do so, having assessed the benefit or damage that might result.