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Archives independence should be protected

2 November 2009 Media release
Archives independence should be protected

Plans by the National Government to put Archives New Zealand under the control of another government department are a backward step, Labour State Services Spokesperson Grant Robertson said.

The Government is undertaking a review of where Archives New Zealand sits within the public sector. Options being considered include the State Services Commission, Department of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Culture and Heritage and the National Library.

“An independent National Archive is an important part of our democracy. We can not afford our history to be compromised by political interference,” Grant Robertson said.

“There was significant debate about this issue in the 1990s, and Labour established Archives New Zealand as an independent agency in 2000.

“This put us in line with other Archives around the world, and is supported by United Nations guidelines on archives.

“Reversing this position doesn’t make sense. The feedback I’m getting from the Archives community is that Archives New Zealand is working better than ever.

“If it ain’t broke why fix it?

“Putting Archives New Zealand under the control of another department might provide minimal savings, but will put at risk the independence of the record of how our government operates.

“The Chief Archivist will be beholden to another public servant, and this could lead to conflict over issues such as disposal of documents.

“The government also needs to be more up-front about this review. It has only come to light through a leaked memo to Archives staff. A change to the independent status of Archives New Zealand is a significant change and an open and transparent process is needed.

“So far it has been anything but a transparent process.” Grant Robertson said.

Archives Memo (pdf)

ENDS

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