Doubts about Archives NZ's future

Those interested in the history of their homes have many resources at their fingertips, such as  those housed by Archives New Zealand. Photo from ODT files.
The Archives NEw Zealand building on George St, Dunedin. Photo: ODT files
Doubts remain about the future of Archives New Zealand while its links with Internal Affairs are unclear, an archives advocate says.

"There has been a cloud cast ever since Archives [NZ] was reabsorbed into Internal Affairs," Peter Miller, of Dunedin, said yesterday.

"I'm frustrated that it's taking so long to announce anything [after last year's review]", Mr Miller said.

Critics say Archives New Zealand and the chief archivist play a key constitutional role in supporting the Official Information Act by ensuring that crucial state records are not lost or destroyed.

Such critics, including Mr Miller, who is a former Archives and Records Association of New Zealand president, say the chief archivist's oversight of government departments in terms of the maintenance of state records was undermined when Archives New Zealand was reabsorbed into the Internal Affairs Department in 2011, taking a lowly "third tier" role within it.

That meant the chief archivist could not talk directly to government department chief executives from a position of equality, he said.

The Labour Party supports splitting Archives New Zealand from Internal Affairs and investigating making the chief archivist an officer of Parliament, a status similar to the Auditor-general.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin co-chair a ministerial group which has been investigating changed arrangements. Asked about delays in making an announcement, Ms Martin said "existing arrangements for the institutions cannot continue".

Further "important work" was continuing.

She recognised "the interest in this issue and the desire for a decision", and an announcement would come as soon as possible.

Mr Miller voiced confidence in Mr Robertson's approach, but wanted to know the outcome.

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