Archivists 'in dark' on plans

Archivists say they are waiting "in the dark" and are increasingly worried about a lack of information and consultation over moves to restructure Archives New Zealand.

Archives and Records Association (Aranz) president Joanna Newman, of Wellington, said it was a "huge concern" that details were still not available about Government proposals to merge Archives New Zealand and the National Library into the Department of Internal Affairs.

Archivists say that when Archives NZ was removed from the Internal Affairs Department and established as a separate department in 2000, this was in keeping with international best practice.

Archives NZ has the overall responsibility for government record-keeping and community archives.

Ms Newman said maintaining the independence of the country's national archives and of the chief archivist was vital in ensuring Government accountability to New Zealanders over state-sector activities.

Undermining that independence would constitute "a significant action against our democracy", she warned.

A proposal to return Archives NZ to Internal Affairs was to have been discussed by Cabinet on Monday.

However, a spokesman at the office of State Services Commission Minister Tony Ryall said the matter would be considered further before it went to Cabinet.

Aranz Otago-Southland branch chairman John Timmins, of Dunedin, said he was disappointed about the lack of consultation with archivists and user groups, such as genealogists.

"It seems to be a fait accompli and now we have to wait in the dark ... which is not the best way of working in a democracy."

"I'm definitely disappointed at Aranz being cut out of the process and very apprehensive about the final outcome."

Labour's State Services spokesman, Grant Robertson, said maintaining an independent national archives system was "an important part of the democratic process".

"I think it's a tragedy to turn back the clock."

Gaining some further efficiencies through payroll or human resources arrangements could be considered but parliamentary reviews had shown that Archives NZ was already "an extremely efficient organisation", he said.


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