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Access Denied: Government Must Fund Online Access To Public Records

PSA snap protest outside the National Library in Wellington today calling for the Government to fund continued digitisation of historical records. Photo/Supplied

The digitisation programme has made more than one million records available online, and those will remain available. But more than four million records will now remain offline indefinitely.

"Accessible public records are not a ‘nice to have’, they’re a fundamental part of our democratic society," said Fleur Fitzsimons, Assistant Secretary for the Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi.

"Public records help keep our government transparent, and accessing records enables us to claim our rights."

Archives’ records help people navigate complex legal processes. People use divorce files in the archives to prove marital status when remarrying, applying for a pension, or filing for probate. When applying for citizenship, people use school admissions registers to prove how long they’ve lived in New Zealand.

If you want to view a physical record, you must visit the Archives repository that holds it. If that record happens to be elsewhere in the country? You must travel all the way there, taking time and costing you money.

And if you don’t have the time or money to travel the country to view records? Access denied.

If you have a disability and can’t access the records physically? Access denied.

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If you’re immunocompromised? Access denied.

This move also slows down other government processes that we rely on. Courts, Police, and other parts of the government need their information from our archives. Without digitisation, they’re already spending more time and money accessing physical records.

"The digitisation programme was making it easier to access our history and heritage, and easier to make sure our rights are fulfilled," said Fitzsimons. "The Government must make sure the programme continues."

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