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Chief Archivist's foreword

After the February 2011 Canterbury earthquake, maps of Christchurch from 1850 proved to be vital tools to a range of groups involved in earthquake recovery. The maps, held by Archives New Zealand (Archives), show the placement of watercourses through the city, many of which have since been drained or buried. Without these maps, produced 160 years before the earthquakes, the link between the location of the watercourses and areas of severe damage would not have been easily known.

To me, these maps are the perfect example of why archives are so important. The records and taonga we hold on behalf of New Zealand aren’t just there to fill up storage space. They provide real value and insight to New Zealanders about our country and our people, places and history.

In developing this long-term strategy, we asked ourselves and our stakeholders what kind of shape we want New Zealand’s record of government to be in for future generations.

Long before transfer to us, we need to ensure all information is being created and managed well.

This strategy sets a general direction for the next forty years. Like all strategies, it’s designed to be high level – setting out where we want to go, but not precisely how we intend to get there.

We will build these strategic directions into our annual, four year and 10 year planning.

The essence of this strategy is in the three key strategic focus areas. I’m confident that these will help us, and the partners we work with, to know where our efforts will go in the coming years:

  • Taking archives to the people is about getting government information, records and archives "out there" for users, promoting what we do and gearing up for the growth in digital and physical holdings;

  • Upholding transparency shows our intention to support open government principles, so many of which are enabled by good information management practices; and

  • Building systems together is about shaping the processes, systems and technology that form the government information system so that effective information management is built in from the start.

We’re living in a time of rapid technological, social and environmental change, which has implications for achieving our stewardship obligations across the system. Regulatory stewardship requires the active planning and management of medium and long-term interests so we are transforming the way we operate now so people in 2057 have cause to celebrate. The year 2057 will mark 100 years since the establishment of New Zealand’s national archives through the Archives Act 1957.

I’m excited about what’s next for Archives. I hope you’ll join us on this journey.

Marilyn Little

Chief Archivist


People value a vibrant, trusted national archives. We will be a trusted regulator of government information through the Public Records Act; experts in how to create, manage, preserve and discover information; and a gateway providing access to the nation’s history, connecting people to their stories, rights and entitlements.

The precise future of Aotearoa New Zealand is difficult to predict. We do know there will be successive governments that interact with the people and make decisions on their behalf.The record of those interactions will need to be created and managed.

A trusted, independent institution is needed to ensure all government information is created and managed effectively. Local and central government information must be open if appropriate and able to be used for the benefit of all.

We do not know exactly what technologies will be prevalent by 2057. We do know that the digital service expectations of the next generation will be high. Modern infrastructure and digital building blocks such as metadata, will enable users to discover, understand and trust government information across the system. 1

We will continue to value, and care for, our physical holdings. New Zealanders will still come to see and experience New Zealand’s most precious founding documents and records of pivotal moments in time. Some physical access to our holdings will continue but the availability of information digitally will meet the majority of user needs.

A robust, transparent, accurate and well preserved record of the New Zealand government also shows the world who we are.

We are bold in our aspirations. Change is upon us and there is an exciting future.

Key terminology

Why is information important?

Government relies on information to function, just as wider society does. Without it, decisions couldn’t be made by government institutions, legislation couldn’t be passed or enforced and citizens wouldn’t be able to access services or entitlements. It’s a bit like the oil that greases the machinery of government and allows it to function smoothly.

Record means information, whether in its original form or otherwise, including (without limitation) a document, a signature, a seal, text, images, sound, speech, or data compiled, recorded, or stored. (Public Records Act 2005).

Is a record the same as information?

Under the Public Records Act, records are any information held by central or local government organisations. 2

This includes all information, regardless of form and format, from documents through to data. “Record” is the basic definition. It is further defined for various purposes under the Act e.g. central government “public records” are distinguished from “local authority records”.

Our standards and guidance for agencies use the term “information and records management”. This is because effective information management is necessary to meet the requirements of the Act. Information management professionals are the public sector’s key capability for ensuring that records have integrity, and that they are full and accurate, publicly accessible, and are properly disposed of with the Chief Archivist’s authorisation.

What about archives – are they just old records?

Archives are records, selected for their enduring value, which are kept in perpetuity. In New Zealand, about 3-4% of government records end up as public archives. Many of these are kept at Archives, but they can also be kept in other repositories approved by the Minister. Local authorities have responsibility for keeping their own archives.

Legislatively, public records to be archived must be transferred to Archives 25 years after they were created. Many records are transferred much earlier than 25 years and in a born-digital world, digital preservation work needs to take place even earlier.

There’s a lot of talk about data – how does that fit?

Data is a sub-set of information. It refers to a set of discrete, objective facts about events, people or places, without context or interpretation. It requires computational analysis. Data is covered by the Public Records Act 2005 and Archives New Zealand’s standards already apply to it. The Chief Archivist has a particular interest where data forms a record of evidence of a transaction or decision making that may be needed in the long term to hold government to account.

Regulatory scope Public Records Act 2005

Chief Archivist's regulatory duties covering over 3,000 entities (Section 11 (1) (a)-(f))


  • Parliament

  • Offices of Parliament

These are public records and parliamentary records.


  • Ministers

  • Government departments

  • Crown entities (includes DHBs, school boards of trustees, tertiary institutions)

  • SOEs

  • Inquiries

These are public records and Ministers' papers.


  • Supreme Court

  • Court of Appeal

  • High Court

  • District Court

  • Other courts and tribunals

These are public records.

Local authorities

  • Regional councils

  • Territorial authorities

  • Unitary councils

  • Council controlled organisations

These are local authority records.

Chief Archivist - a leadership role (Section 11 (1) (g))

Wider archival sector

A wide variety including:

  • Large non-government institutions with nationally significant collections

  • Individual or private collections

  • Small local organisation collections

These are private records.

The future we want

A wide range of stakeholders have contributed to the shape of this strategy and given their ideas and expectations into the future.

Stakeholders are concerned about the pace of technological change and what this means for storing and accessing information in the future. We want those 3,000 public offices and local authorities that are subject to the Public Records Act (collectively referred to in this strategy as “agencies”) to have strong information management practices because they see the value of it to their operations. We also want New Zealanders, particularly younger generations, to know there is an independent steward of government information who requires agencies to keep full and accurate records.

Accessing records and taonga will be a vibrant, intuitive and cohesive experience. We will make over 200 years’worth of recorded government history discoverable and connected to other collections.

“We will not know what will be of interest to researchers, citizens and users of archives in the future. We can only guess. We need to be humble in the face of that unknown, and plan a bit of the creative and serendipitous to allow for future directions”

– Archives and Records Association of NZ

We will continue to care for and preserve the physical holdings in our custody and focus on building resilience. Planned investment in Archives’ own physical repositories is significant, and the necessary space for the transfer of records for the medium term will grow. Physical access services will need to scale down gradually over time as we build reach through digital channels. We will shape our services to meet the needs of our users.

Digital preservation capability will support and provide assurance across the whole government information system. This strategy acknowledges that we must offer a state of the art government digital archive, but in the future it might not be necessary for all records of enduring value to be transferred to it. Technology will provide methods of assuring authenticity, trustworthiness and accessibility of records, whether archived or in current use. Information and data needs to be accurately and consistently described in order for it to be easily found, maintained, used, and linked with other records to add value.

To make this strategy work, we need to re- tune our own capabilities and get better at understanding the needs and capability of information management professionals in agencies. We are in this together.

“We are alarmed that material stored on some technologies less than a decade old is not readable by more recent technologies and therefore is not accessible to current policy makers and researchers, let alone the wider public.”

– Science New Zealand

Case study

He Tohu, a new permanent exhibition

The launch of our new permanent exhibition, He Tohu, will see three of New Zealand’s most important founding constitutional documents (the Treaty of Waitangi,1835 Declaration of Independence and the 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition) showcased through physical and digital platforms. The vision for the exhibition is “talking about our past to create a better future” and He Tohu, for this exhibition simply means the signs, in reference to the unique signatures on these taonga.

The new exhibition has three objectives:

  • Preserving our fragile and priceless documentary heritage for future generations;

  • Improving access for all New Zealanders and visitors to our country; and

  • Enhancing learning opportunities for young New Zealanders.

This is just one example of an opportunity to showcase Archives’ holdings, increase access to these important founding documents while continuing our role as kaitiaki of these precious taonga.

Challenges and opportunities

The future environment

As we move towards 2057, there will be global conflicts; climate change impacts; changing migration patterns and challenges for the New Zealand economy to maintain living standards with an aged population. Central and local government decisions on spending limited resources may become increasingly difficult as the population demographics change. We have considered the many challenges and opportunities on the horizon, particularly in relation to government information, our core business.

The importance of trusted information

The internet allows anyone to publish information viewable by millions. The down-side of this includes the widespread dissemination of misinformation which has the potential to cause public harm. The public will increasingly have to ensure the information they consume is from trusted sources.

People lose trust in government if there is poor recordkeeping, difficulty accessing information or privacy and security breaches by agencies.

Archives has the opportunity to build trust in the record of government by ensuring the creation and maintenance of records and information meets necessary standards.

Changes in technology and how information issued by government

Major technological changes over the next forty years will alter how decisions are made, services are provided, and even what information and the record of government will look like. We can see such changes already with the rise of machine learning and increased use of computational analytics to interrogate, and make decisions from, large datasets. We must understand these types of advancements as they emerge and ensure that appropriate records of government activity are created, maintained and can be accessed.

At an all-of-government level, there are heightened expectations of solving complex policy problems and delivering economic value using data and information. Effective information management maximises the potential value of government information while safeguarding privacy and security.

We must do better

The “disappointing” levels of recordkeeping maturity among agencies 10 years after the Public Records Act 2005 are unacceptable.3  We need to work together with agencies to lift performance.

The increased growth in government digital information created means Archives must be able ingest information on an industrial scale. However, digital transfer requires information to be created and managed well by agencies prior to transfer.

Our strategic focus areas are outlined next and show our response to these challenges and opportunities.

Strategic focus areas

Taking archives to the people

This strategic focus area is about enabling users to discover, use, celebrate and connect with the growing scale of the record of government. This means a shift from users having to find us and understand our systems, to pushing information out using channels that are relevant to different communities.

Why it is important

In the coming decades, there will be a considerable increase in both the physical and digital records(both born-digital and digitised) we hold, with digital transfers exceeding physical transfers from 2030 onward. This growth will increase the wealth of rich, accessible information that can help to evolve ideas about identity, history, culture, heritage and the activities of successive governments.

We need to understand the information needs of the diverse communities of New Zealand (wherever they are based) and engage and facilitate access in ways that work for them. This needs to be a continuous process because their information needs and access preferences are likely to evolve over the next forty years.

We acknowledge our special relationship with Māori as partners with the Crown under Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The knowledge we have built supporting treaty claim research and work on treaty settlement commitments can help guide where to focus our efforts next (e.g. improving metadata).

Digital technologies will open up the possibilities around creating hyper-collections 4 and enable communities to add value to the information held. We will look for opportunities through technologies and partnerships to extend the reach of the information and support innovation.

What great could look like

In 4 years:

Strong capability among Archives staff to co-design initiatives with Māori.

Collaboration with Māori to develop metadata that is appropriate for the records and communities to which they relate.

Enhanced online access (website and discovery aids) that delivers increased digitised holdings.

Iwi and community archivists see Archives NZ, National Library of New Zealand and others working together to provide the guidance, tools and support needed by the wider archival sector.

Archives promotes the value of the work it does widely in new and innovative ways.

In 40 years:

Māori use, trust and co-create government information, are kaitiaki of taonga and benefit from iwi-based knowledge.

Intuitive searching across multiple collections of information with over 200 years’ worth of trusted government information.

Well preserved, maintained and accessible documentary heritage of New Zealand across public and private archives.

New Zealanders understand the importance of having an independent steward of government information and have trust and confidence in an authentic, reliable public record.

Case study

The power of digitising archives

Measuring the ANZACs asks members of the public to identify and transcribe key data and stories from the files of New Zealand military personnel who served during World War One and the Boer War.

This project takes files that have been digitised by Archives and puts them into a format that can be more easily analysed to gain insight about New Zealand society in the early 20th century. Using online volunteers to transcribe these records enables a much larger data source that will be used for historical, genealogical and health data research. The data and information is being used by researchers at the University of Minnesota Population Centre, but will also be made publicly available for anyone to use.

Upholding transparency

This strategic focus area is about using our regulatory mandate strongly to require agencies to create and manage their information while safeguarding privacy and security concerns.A shift to access from the point of creation and the proactive release of information will support open government principles around transparent and accountable government. This is also about managing information well over time so that access permissions are reviewed and there are no unnecessary restrictions.

Why it is important

We must ensure that accurate, trustworthy records are created, managed well and can be used now or in the future. We must build awareness of the core purpose of an independent government archive – first and foremost, to enable governments to be held to account.

There are few occasions that justify information being restricted or classified indefinitely. We are seeing early warning signs of agencies restricting more information in the born - digital environment and this must not become a systemic response. The New Zealand Government is signed up to the Open Government Partnership forum of countries working to improve openness, transparency and responsiveness in government. Effective management of information is at the heart of the principles of open government.

Often the government information that the public wants to access is still in use and is held by agencies. We have heard from many stakeholders that it is often difficult to find and access this information. One reason for this is the fragmented nature of systems and processes in place to implement the Official Information Act 1982 and the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987.

There is a widely held view that New Zealand should use data to drive economic and social value and create competitive advantage. As agencies become increasingly sophisticated in using data for evidence-based policy decision making, transparency around those decisions for future generations is important. Good information management also enables agencies to use, re-use and link information and data to make informed decisions.

What great could look like

In 4 years

The access permissions regime is simplified and more transparent for users with a clear entry point for discovering government information

Greater focus on ensuring agencies are creating records appropriately.

All of the public record of the core public sector will be covered by disposal authorities. 5

Strong leadership by Archives to ensure all of government digital service transformation is underpinned by effective digital information management.

Building data capability at Archives to ensure agency decisions based on data are properly recorded and preserved.

In 40 years

Government information able to be accessed from point of creation as a matter of course.

Active review of decisions to restrict information.

Individuals have a high level of trust in the information management practices of agencies and know their rights and entitlements.

New Zealanders have trust in the digital record of their interactions with government and maintain a level of control over its use.

Researchers of the future can trace how government used data to make important decisions.

Building systems together

This strategic focus area is about leading, influencing and regulating across the government information system to improve information processes, technology, standards, culture and behaviours. We will work with others and build these systems together. This benefits New Zealanders as the needs, rights and entitlements of individuals will be included in system design.

Why it is important

Archives will take a holistic approach to exercising its leadership and regulatory roles, looking at all aspects of the government information system. The system is made up of processes, technology, standards, culture and behaviours. A regulator can focus on setting standards, compliance, enforcement and complaints investigation. We also see a great opportunity to build for compliance at the time new information systems are being developed.

We will be actively looking for opportunities to make it easy for agencies to comply with information and records management standards. As government service delivery becomes digital by default, the needs, rights and entitlements of an increasingly digital literate population must be built into the design of new services.

Making effective information management a valued part of the way agencies operate will lift performance across the entire system. Agencies first created digital information routinely in the 1980s. However, agencies are still producing both physical and digital records and this presents a risk to accessing and preserving the record of government.

Agencies have told us that they would like very clear and prescriptive mandatory standards to be set by Archives. There are areas where standards need to be prescriptive, for example metadata standards and technical specifications for born-digital transfers. However, the diversity of the agencies we regulate mean that an outcomes-based regulatory model is the most effective way to lift performance. An outcomes-based approach will help information management maturity across agencies by outlining what needs to be achieved but allowing flexibility for how agencies achieve this.

What great could look like

In 4 years

An accelerated transition to fully digital information management to support digital government.

Archives has a clear picture of recordkeeping  maturity across government and an understanding of how agencies plan to build their maturity.

All agencies build and maintain a register of information assets because they can see the benefits across the system. 6

Chief Archivist working with the Government Chief Information Officer and Government Chief Privacy Officer to provide joined up service offerings.

In 40 years

Creators and users of government’s digital information systems have a high level of trust in the underpinning processes and technology.

Intuitive system processes and technologies automate compliance and enable open government and responsive service delivery.

Regulator can remotely monitor compliance through technology.

Information assets are routinely used and reused by diverse groups and are always traceable to their authoritative sources.

A resilient and enduring record of government is preserved and can withstand major global or local events, agency change and reformation.

Case study

More transparency around Official Information Act (OIA) performance

Government agencies need to be committed to openness and transparency in the provision of public services to New Zealanders. The Public Records Act 2005 requires agencies to create and maintain full and accurate records.

Therefore, Archives has a strong interest in supporting initiatives that build New Zealanders’ trust in the management of government information.

From January 2017, the State Services Commission (SSC) has started publishing the OIA statistics covering over 100 agencies. The OIA gives New Zealanders the right to access information and is important for ensuring government is open and transparent.

The SSC is also working with the Office of the Ombudsman and government agencies to make more information publicly available and improve compliance with the OIA.

Case study

Other regulators that build systems together

In developing this strategy, Archives has explored how other regulators, such as Inland Revenue(IR), are improving overall regulatory performance. IR and other regulators have successfully introduced new systems and processes to reduce compliance effort and cost for businesses by working with others. Similarly, Archives will work collaboratively on new system and process development to make it easy to comply. We will also leverage the DIA’s Regulatory Stewardship Programme to identify system enhancements.

IR’s business transformation is working to make it easier for businesses to comply with tax obligations. In April 2016 a new service for businesses to file GST returns directly from their accounting software was launched.

The new service was developed by IR working jointly with accounting software providers Xero and MYOB and they are now working with other software providers who want to offer GST filing to their clients.

Turning strategy into action

This strategy outlines a broad direction for the organisation while recognising that the performance of the government information system is reliant on the capability of the many players within the system.

Detailed implementation planning activity will align with established planning processes – annual, four year and 10 year planning. We will establish appropriate measures of performance to track progress towards delivering on this strategy. Priority work is summarised under internal capability, technology and relationships as follows.

Internal capability

New and enhanced skills and capabilities are needed if we are to effectively deliver on this strategy. The main areas identified include:

  • digital information management and preservation advisory expertise;

  • stronger te reo and tikanga skills to enable improved staff/iwi/Māori engagement and user discoverability;

  • more effective collaboration and relationship management for partnership and co-design opportunities; and

  • skills to build digital service offerings and outreach promotion.


Year one priorities include continuing with the development of business requirements for the redevelopment of our Collections search platform.

This is essential work for improving the discoverability of our holdings and enable easier methods for delivering digitised items to users. Early priorities also include redevelopment of Archives’ websites and ensuring our technology supports a higher rate of digitisation activity.


Relationship management is increasingly important for Archives as an effective regulator and steward of the government information system. There are a number of key roles and programmes that focus on information and data across the information lifecycle, from creation to use. Archives needs to work key all of government roles to make sure work is linked-up to reduce duplication and get the best results possible across the government information system.

End notes

1. Metadata, which is data describing context, content and structure of records and their management through time, is vital in assisting users to locate and understand information.

2. Excludes special collections and some records created by tertiary sector academics and students.

3. State of Government Recordkeeping and Public Records Act 2005 Audits 2014/15, Archives New Zealand.

4. A “hypercollection” is a term coined in the DIA Information Knowledge Services’ Digital Services Strategy and is where digital content from culture and heritage memory institutions or government agencies is linked.

5. Disposal authority coverage will increase from 80% to 100% in the core public sector.

6. An information asset is a body of information, defined and managed as a single unit so it can be understood, shared,protected and exploited effectively. Information assets have recognisable and manageable value, risk, content and lifecycles.