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Archives, Library merger turning back the clock

Grant Robertson
Associate Arts, Culture and heritage spokesperson

9 March 2010 Media Statement
Archives, Library merger turning back the clock

Plans to merge Archives New Zealand and the National Library into the Department of Internal Affairs is a backward step putting at risk vital elements of our historical and democratic infrastructure, Grant Robertson, Labour Associate Arts, Culture and Heritage spokesperson said today.

“The Government is trying to wind back the clock by putting Archives and the National Library under the control of Internal Affairs, after extensive work was done to separate them only a decade ago,” Grant Robertson said.

“The reasons for the separations were clear. For Archives the important role of ensuring transparency in the activities of government requires statutory independence.

“The Chief Archivist needs to be in the position to enforce the law that requires other government agencies to keep and deposit their records. That will be compromised with a re-merger into Internal Affairs.

“When the National Library was administered by Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Education it struggled to have a voice. The separation allowed protection for the iconic Alexander Turnbull Library, and a place for library users to have a role in its management. None of this can be guaranteed with a re-merger.

“We all want to ensure the public service operates as efficiently as possible and to share services where that makes sense. Also in some cases structural change will be appropriate. However this is not the case for Archives and the National Library because of the special place they have in protecting our history and culture.

“Further, both are very efficient in how they go about their business, getting excellent audit reports over recent years.

“If the Government had bothered to consult the public who use Archives and the National Library they would find a high degree of satisfaction at the services that are being offered. They would also find little or no desire to turn back the clock to a time when both agencies were lost in a bigger bureaucracy.

“A merger into Internal Affairs is not appropriate for organisations that have very specific roles that are important to the transparency of our government and the protection of our history,” Grant Robertson said.


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