The Archives Council Te Rua Wānanga Annual Report 2008/09

The following report is provided in accordance with section 15(3) of the Public Records Act 2005.

Establishment and Functions

The Archives Council Te Rua Wānanga is an unincorporated body established under the Public Records Act 2005 (Part 1, sections 14, 15 and 16). Its role is to provide advice to the Minister Responsible for Archives New Zealand on recordkeeping and archives matters generally, including those for which tikanga Māori is relevant. The Council also advises the Minister on authorisations to dispose of public records of Archives New Zealand, the approval of other repositories for public archives, and on appeals made to the Minister.

Archives New Zealand provides administrative services to the Archives Council.

Council Membership

The Council consists of seven members:

In accordance with section 14(3)(b) of the Public Records Act 2005, two of the Council members have knowledge of tikanga Māori. Council members hold office for a term not exceeding three years and may be reappointed.

Meetings

The Council met on four occasions during the past year:

Council Charter

In terms of section 16(1) of the Public Records Act 2005 the Archives Council “may regulate its own procedure”. To this end the Council has adopted a Council Charter which is annexed to this Report. It is also available electronically at http://www.archives.govt.nz/council-charter.

The Council’s Central Perspective

The Council expresses its appreciation and gratitude to Dianne Macaskill for her support and cooperation since its inception in August 2006. Dianne Macaskill was appointed Chief Archivist and the first Chief Executive of the stand-alone department in 2001. She retired from that position in June 2009. During eight years under her stewardship Archives New Zealand has flourished and has found its rightful place in the panoply of government departments and organisations. A succinct catalogue of the organisation’s achievements 2001-2009 may be found on pages 5 – 6 of Archives New Zealand’s Annual Report 2008/09, these include development and implementation of the Public Records Act 2005, development of government’s Digital Continuity Action Plan (approved by Cabinet in June 2009), and significant strides in Archives New Zealand’s capability to deliver on its responsibilities to Māori and assistance to community archives.

The State Services Commissioner is currently undertaking a machinery of government review as to whether Archives New Zealand should continue as a stand-alone department, or be amalgamated with another department, and if so which department. The Council is reassured that the Commissioner does not intend to review the policy of the Public Records Act 2005, nor the role and functions of the Chief Archivist, including the statutorily independent functions specified in the Public Records Act 2005 (which had broad cross-party support when passed).

It is not commonly understood that the primary purpose of Archives New Zealand is to ensure the creation, preservation and ready access to the records of government, including those preserved permanently as archives, in order for more effective and accountable government. The scope of this work is across the whole of government, legislative, executive, and judicial, and includes State Owned Enterprises and the education sector, including universities. There are also responsibilities in relation to local government archives.

In the exercise of this function Archives New Zealand through its statutory head, the Chief Archivist, has the power to issue advisory and mandatory standards, conduct audits and submit an annual report to Parliament on the state of recordkeeping across the whole of the State Sector. The Chief Archivist also has the sole discretion, unless otherwise provided in law, to authorise the disposal of all government records, including designating those for permanent preservation as archives to ensure an impartial record of government.

Experience overseas and within New Zealand has shown that to be effective in fulfilling this primary mandate it is essential that the Chief Archivist and Archives New Zealand is able to deal equally and independently with all other state agencies and their chief officers. If this is not acknowledged in any proposed machinery of government change Archives New Zealand’s ability to operate effectively and impartially will be compromised, not least in relation to any agency it may be joined with. In sum, the role of Archives New Zealand is somewhat analogous to that of the Office of the Auditor General, which is similarly independent and reports separately to Parliament.

From 1957 to 2000 National Archives (as it then was) was part of the Department of Internal Affairs. Since its creation as an independent agency and with a fresh, wider mandate given by the Public Records Act 2005, Archives New Zealand has not only lifted the level of government recordkeeping generally but is now recognised internationally as one of the leading agencies of its kind in the world, particularly in relation to the management of electronic information. It also has an appropriately higher profile within government generally.

Overview of the Council’s Priorities

As in 2007/08, the Council’s principal focus over the past year has been on the two main challenges facing Archives New Zealand. These are:

1. Archives New Zealand’s audit function
The Council is satisfied that the concept developed by Archives New Zealand for the audit of public offices is sound; that its consultations with recordkeeping practitioners and experts on the Audit Tool have been productive; that the proposed independent advisory panel (IAP) of senior public servants and the development of an evaluation framework is appropriate; and that overall preparation for the audit is on track and thus far adequately resourced.

2. Digital Continuity Strategy
The Council has been concerned that the impetus behind the government’s Digital Continuity Action Plan is maintained, as the Strategy is essential for the continued operation of accountable government and for public trust in government. If the Strategy did not proceed, or was inadequately staffed or resourced this would risk an immediate loss of government information. The Council was reassured when, in June 2009, Cabinet approved the Digital Continuity Action Plan, developed by Archives New Zealand (the lead department) in collaboration with other agencies. This whole-of-government initiative, a world-first of its kind, should engender good management and continuity of the public sector’s digital information, opportunities for public sector efficiency gains through shared services, and raise awareness of good digital information practices.

3. Responsiveness to Māori programme
The 2014 completion date for historical Treaty of Waitangi te Tiriti o Waitangi claims set by the Government has increased the pressure on researchers undertaking Treaty research work, and also on Archives New Zealand’s ability to meet demand for services. The Archives Council met with the Waitangi Tribunal’s Principal Research Analyst and Acting Chief Historian to better understand these pressures and the practical measures Archives New Zealand has taken to alleviate them. The Council is appreciative of Archives New Zealand’s continuing momentum with its comprehensive responsiveness to Māori programme. In particular, it noted the completion of research projects of relevance for Tūhoe and Taranaki iwi.The Council hosted with Te Pae Whakawairua a function to farewell the Chief Archivist and Chief Executive, Dianne Macaskill which the Minister attended.

4. Community Archives
The Council commends Archives New Zealand for the implementation of The Community Archive online register, which provides information about community archives and their holdings throughout New Zealand. It replaces the National Register of Archives and Manuscripts after many years of sterling service. Another milestone was the release in April 2009 of four publications which provide advice and information to assist communities in the care and management of archives and tāonga.
The Council is appreciative of the work done by volunteers throughout New Zealand, including the New Zealand Society of Genealogists who completed a 10-year project indexing probates held at Archives New Zealand’s Wellington office. Also pleasing is the progress being made by FamilySearch volunteers, with the digitisation of some 300,000 pages of lists of passengers on ships, and assisted immigrants arriving in New Zealand between 1839 and 1976.

5. Auckland Local Government Reorganisation
The Council conveyed to Archives New Zealand and to the Minister Responsible for Archives New Zealand its concern that the change in Local Government in Auckland could mean that protected records, including archives, of the local authorities which are to be dissolved may be at risk of loss or destruction. Subsequently Archives New Zealand has advised the Auckland Transitional Authority and the eight local authorities being disestablished of their recordkeeping responsibilities and of the need to develop a sound recordkeeping framework for the emerging Auckland Council.

Funding and Secretariat Services
Funds for the operation of the Council are provided from the budget of Archives New Zealand. The Council expresses its appreciation to the Chief Archivist and Chief Executive, Dianne Macaskill and Acting Chief Archivist and Chief Executive, Greg Goulding for their support and for making staff, in both national and regional offices, available to assist the Council’s deliberations, and also for the services of its secretary; Marion Sanson followed by Françoise Lafferty-Hancock.

Expenditure Items (31 August 2008 - 30 August 2009)

Remuneration $10,190.32
Travel of members $10,371.22
Other (catering, accommodation, representation) $2,595.57
Total $23,157.11

 

Richard Nottage
Chairperson, Archives Council
January 2010

Appendix: Council Charter