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Today sees the release of more than 380 previously classified Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) files held by Archives New Zealand Wellington, in a joint process between the two organisations.

Making the files available to the public is part of MFAT’s regular declassification programme, which sees records 25 years and older reviewed and declassified, subject to a vetting process to ensure New Zealand’s interests are protected.

The many files opened for public access include records created by the Ministry’s head office in Wellington, as well as by New Zealand overseas posts in New York, London, Canberra and Paris. The release also includes records from other government departments in New Zealand which carried out MFAT functions, such as the Department of Trade and Industry.

The files released date from 1906 to the 1990s, and cover a wide variety of topics. They include preparations for David Lange’s speech to the United Nations conference on disarmament in 1985, and cards sent by hundreds of New Zealanders to MFAT in 1988 as part of a Greenpeace campaign to stop French nuclear testing in the Pacific. The files also contain an historical narrative of New Zealand’s involvement in the Viet Nam War, and condolence letters received from around the world following the Erebus disaster of 1979.

Other records in the release cover a similarly broad range of subject matter. This includes files on the European Economic Community (EEC), International Whaling Commission (IWC), Commonwealth conferences, the South Pacific Forum, Tokelau, the Samoan Mau movement, East Timor and Rwandan political affairs, Indonesian geothermal aid projects, climate change, the South Pacific Festival of the Arts, and more.

Interested to know more about the records?

  • You can view the official MFAT press release and a list of the files released on the MFAT website. The list includes the full Archives New Zealand reference for each file.

  • You can request the files for viewing in our Wellington Reading Room through Archway, Archives New Zealand’s online search tool. Enquiries may be made using the ask an archivist form, or telephone Archives New Zealand Wellington on +64 4 499 5595

  • You can also follow the release on Twitter at #MFATRelease. Select files will be highlighted on our Twitter feed over the coming week.

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