The Chief Archivist’s Report
on the State of Government Recordkeeping 2018/19

He tirohanga ki te whakahaere mōhiohio rāngai tūmatanui 2018/19 – He pūrongo kitenga

Preserving the memory of government – protecting New Zealand’s democracy

Te whakapūmau i te mahara o te kāwanatanga – te whakahaumaru i te manapori o Aotearoa

Highlights for 2018/19

From September to October 2018, Archives New Zealand engaged with regulated parties on our proposed Regulatory Programme – what we are planning to focus on for the sector.

We wanted to hear our stakeholders’ views and gain a sense of how our proposed programme matched areas of activity they believed was most important, and would be most useful to them in terms of information management (IM) and recordkeeping.

We heard from 144 people who read content, gave us their views and comments, and participated in surveys. From that feedback we continued work on several projects over the 2018/19 year, which are running on into 2019/20 and 2020/21.

  • 254 public sector organisations surveyed on their IM practices

  • Audit programme in development

  • 3 new functional disposal authorities (DAs) being tested in pilot DHB model

  • Office 365 continues to be investigated to understand its impact on IM practices

Chief Archivist

Chief Archivist's Foreword

“Archives New Zealand exists not only to be a keeper, a holder of government records. In ensuring successive generations can access those records, and hold their government to account, we play a vital part in upholding our country’s democracy and protecting our unique culture.”

E ngā minita, me ngā Kaiwhiriwhiri o te Whare Pāremata – tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

I often hear people reflect on Archives New Zealand’s role in supporting culture and heritage, but that’s only part of our purpose.

Archives is in fact one of the most important institutions for our democracy: it’s our role to ensure that effective and trusted information management (IM) enables past, current and future governments can be held to account.

To me, Archives’ essential role in enabling government accountability is epitomised by our involvement in the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-based Institutions. Our work with the Royal Commission, and the agencies responding to it, is helping them manage and digitise their historic public records to support the inquiry’s work.

This work brings together our regulatory functions, our stewardship of public archives, our IM leadership role, and our day-to-day work of assisting New Zealanders to access past records, while digitising and storing records for the future.

We see the accountability of our central government and local councils play out in the media, the council chamber, the floor of the House and at election time. Full, accurate and accessible records are a necessary ingredient of public participation in government decisions making.

And we often look back to re-examine our past decisions because they produce both benefit and harm across generations. The scope of the Royal Commission’s work back to 1950 makes the inquiry an exercise in intergenerational government accountability. The effectiveness of its work will rest, at least in part, on the initial fullness and subsequent preservation of records created since 1950.

I anticipate that the Royal Commission will be examining the adequacy of government IM practice in this country, as have similar inquiries overseas. And it’s the effectiveness of this practice that allows accounts to be called and any wrongs called out.

Plainly, our public archives are only as good as the IM that creates them. A major piece of work this year has been our information management survey of 254 public organisations. Across 38 questions we asked about their IM – how they did it, who did it, and what challenges and risks they faced. Their responses on key indicators are covered within this report and on the whole survey within a fuller upcoming findings report.

We now have a baseline from which to measure improvements through what will now be an annual activity. The survey’s information is immensely helpful for everyone involved, not just us as the regulator.

For us, it gives us valuable insight into our role as a regulator: how the public sector is performing in terms of IM, and how we can improve our IM leadership, thereby improving their performance. For the respondents, it gives them a better understanding of their IM weaknesses and strengths. Taken together, the survey’s findings will feed into improving IM systems across government. Working with the public sector on improvement ties into our ‘building systems together’ theme under our Archives 2057 Strategy – one of its three key themes.

I also very much hope our shining a spotlight on the IM performance of the public sector will elevate the mana and importance of those whose role includes IM – traditionally an under-resourced and under-valued role. Certainly, the public sector have obligations under the Public Records Act 2005, the Official Information Act 1982 and the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987, but these should not be seen as a burden.

Rather, I stress that IM staff play a critical role in upholding democracy, promoting the accountability and transparency of government, and preserving our country’s memory. Anyone who contributes to ensuring robust and accurate government information is fundamentally part of sustaining and strengthening our democracy through improved accountability and better governance. I thank them for their hard work towards shared goals.

This past year has been a busy one for everyone at Archives New Zealand, and I know this coming year will be just as fulfilling.

Ngā mihi whānui ki a koutou katoa.

Richard Foy's signature


Richard Foy

Chief Archivist

Case Studies

Here are some examples of our work with other agencies over the last year:

  • Case study

    Lost evidence in Pike River investigations

    Lost evidence in the Pike River inquiry lead to a request for assessment into the recordkeeping systems of both the police and the former Department of Labour.

    Read more
  • Case study

    Mishandled and lost patient files

    When a Dunedin newspaper reported that patient files had been found in a public place in Christchurch, Archives began an assessment focusing on the information management systems across two District Health Boards.

    Read more
  • Case study

    Lost government loan files

    Public offices can request their transferred files back from Archives New Zealand, via our Government Loans Service, if they need to refer to them. However, the files come with a duty of care – as those files must be protected and returned.

    Read more
  • Case study

    Regulatory failure from poor IM

    The New Zealand Transport Agency approached Archives for support improving its compliance with the PRA.

    Read more