The Public Records Act audits of more than 2000 organisations
which will begin next year are expected to focus on how
organisations can improve rather than punishing them for
Under the 2005 Act, fines up to $10,000 can be imposed for
non-compliance, but Archives New Zealand acting chief
executive and chief archivist Greg Goulding says the first
round of audits will be looking at what organisations are
doing well and where they could most productively put their
Different organisations would be at different stages of the
compliance process and that would be recognised in the
audits, which will take place over a five-year cycle.
Audits could expose areas of potential risk that
organisations might not be aware of.
It was also possible there would be organisations which were
"champions" which could be a model for other similar groups.
Ensuring electronic records are stored as well as paper
records had been in the past was one of the reasons for the
introduction of the Act, he said.
Changing technology meant electronic records held by
organisations had to be actively rather than passively
managed as paper files had been.
A paper record could be stored in a file on a shelf for 20 to
50 years and survive, as long as it was not affected by fire
or flood, but information on a floppy disk sitting on a shelf
would be "garbage" after a similar time.
Not that Mr Goulding would recommend all electronic records
be converted to paper.
That would be a backward step, losing the context in which
the information was originally created and possibly some of
the meaning, he said.
For most organisations which were increasingly recording
material electronically, it would not be an option they would
To prevent information becoming irretrievable, organisations
needed to have plans in place allowing information to be
transferred to new systems.
One of the biggest questions organisations had to ask was how
long did they need to keep the various pieces of information
in their care.
Having decided how long information needed to be kept and how
it would be kept, organisations had to ensure they disposed
of records in accordance with the Act.
One of the issues organisations had to deal with was how to
manage emails which were now a primary means of business
Archives New Zealand has set standards for what is required
and has been running training sessions to help organisations
with their planning.
Mr Goulding said a manager for the audit process would be
appointed this month and that person would have two or three
It was expected some of the audits would be done by outside
• Otago and Southland District Health Board regional chief
information officer Grant Taylor advised recently the boards
would not be compliant with the Act by the time the audits
started, estimating that it could cost up to $1,156,225 for a
project to get staff and records up to speed.
While clinical records were well managed, there were poor
records management processes and no policies for electronic
Continuing current practice was not a realistic option due to
the legislative requirements, he said in his report.
Public Records Act 2005
• Covers more than 2000 organisations including government
departments, local bodies, district health boards and school
boards of trustees
• Requires these organisations to create and maintain
accurate records in accordance with normal prudent business
• Rules apply to storage, transfer and disposal of records
• Requires organisations covered to be audited
• Sets fines of up to $10,000 for damaging, disposing or
destroying a public record in contravention of the Act or
failing to comply with it or associated regulations