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Birth death and marriage records access protected

23 November 2007

Birth death and marriage records access protected

Green Party MP Keith Locke and United Future's Peter Dunne have welcomed Labour's agreement to allow open access to births, deaths and marriage records.

"The Labour and Green Party joint commentary in the Government Administration Committee's report on the Births, Deaths, Marriages Bill represents a victory of open access," said Mr Locke and Mr Dunne.

"We are hopeful that the amendments it proposes will gain a majority in the House.

"The original bill would have closed off access to many records for decades, and subjected researchers to an unwieldy process of gaining the permission of family members.

"We are pleased that Labour listened to voices of genealogists, historians, biographers and journalists throughout the country that the original bill would hugely constrain their work.

"Labour's first concession didn't go far enough. It still allowed individuals to hide their own birth, marriage and civil union records for life.

"We are satisfied with the position now reached, that individual records can only be hidden for a defined time period, and only then under specified criteria approved by the Registrar-General.

"There are some legitimate instances where a period of non-disclosure would be justified, such as when new marriage records would disclose a residential address to a hostile former partner.

"In practice virtually all records would remain open to the public. We are heartened that the Bill contains a provision for a review of access provisions after five years.

"We are also comfortable with two other new provisions - that those accessing records provide identification, and that those whose records are viewed by third parties are allowed to check the access register.

"All the draconian features of the bill have been removed.

"The way the Greens and United Future have worked together to preserve open access to these records is another example of the virtues of small MMP parties working together for a common goal.

ENDS

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