Promoting mental health, demystifying mental illness, countering stigma and discrimination

The Privacy Act, 1993 & the Health Information Privacy Code (HIPC)

The Privacy Act 1993 established the office of the Privacy Commissioner who developed the HIPC in 1994.

The Act and the Code established certain principles with respect to:

  • The collection, use, and disclosure by private and public sector agencies, of information relating to individuals
  • Access by each person to information relating to them that is held by private and public sector agencies
  • The opportunity of correction of personal information by the individual

Under the HIPC clinicians must have the authorisation of the person receiving treatment before they are able to release information to family, friends etc. There are exceptions to this rule under Rule 11 of the Code. These include:

  • If the clinician feels the client is unable to give informed consent because they are too unwell. In this case a clinician may obtain authorisation from a personal representative - i.e. someone who is seen to be close to the client and acting in their best interests. Usually this is the next of kin.
  • If the client is being cared for by family, or is being provided ongoing support, then clinicians should give family/whanau support people all information required to adequately care for the family member.
  • If a health agency believes that there is a serious and immediate threat to the life or health of the client, or that there is a risk to others, they can disclose information that they think is necessary to reduce/prevent that threat.


There is nothing in the Health Information Privacy Code to stop family/whanau support members giving information regarding their family member to the health agency providing treatment. The health agency may not be able to reciprocate this process unless they have authorisation or unless the above criteria are fulfilled.

For more information about the Privacy Act & HIPC, please contact:


Customer Service/Privacy Officers
Taranaki District Health Board
Phone: 06 7536139 Ext: 7825 or 8825


For more information about the Privacy Act, please contact:
Privacy Commissioner,
Tel 0800 303 909 (toll free)


The Mental Health Commission publishes an excellent booklet "Protecting Your Health Information - A guide to Privacy Issues for Users of the Mental Health Service". It was prepared by the Wellington Community Law Centre and is available at:

Mental Health Commission
Phone (04) 474 8900


SF Taranaki (Supporting Families) is also a good source of information and advocacy for family members wanting to find out about their rights to information under the Privacy Act.

Tel:  (06) 757 9300 NEW PLYOUTH
Tel:  (06) 278 6981 HAWERA or


For a full transcript of the Privacy Act 1993 - please click here



Taranaki Mental Health Sector