The most common ways for a regulated organisation to dispose of records are to transfer the records to our archives or, if the records have no long term value, they can be destroyed.

The Public Records Act 2005 (PRA) mandates the transfer of public records of long-term value that have been in existence for 25 years. They must be transferred either into our possession or, to a repository approved by us.

It is important to contact us as soon as you know you have records you want to transfer, even before you start doing any work to prepare the records. This way we can set you on a path that will make sure your transfer runs smoothly.

The following guidance is designed to help you understand the transfer process and its requirements.

Preparing for transfer

It is important to check that your organisation has a valid disposal authority before you start the transfer process. Only records that have a valid disposal authority can be accepted for transfer to our archives. A disposal authority is the legal permission from the Chief Archivist to dispose of public records.

Please read this guidance to help you understand what a disposal authority is and how to get started. If you are unsure if your organisation has a current disposal authority, you can check our list on Archway using the name of your agency in the keywords search.

If you do not have a valid disposal authority, or have trouble finding your organisation contact us.

Access decisions

All public records 25 years or older must be classified as either open access or restricted access, regardless of where the records are held. If the records are transferred to us before the 25-year limit, their access status must be declared as part of the transfer requirement.

Transfer process

To transfer public records of long term archival value, a regulated organisation must use a current disposal authority and/or general disposal authority. Only information and records that have a disposal action of: “transfer to Archives New Zealand” or equivalent can be transferred.

The transfer process is a collaborative effort between an organisation and us. It is important that a regulated organisation contacts us early in their disposal process to ensure the transfer runs smoothly.

Transfers involve the following stages:

Step 1. Transfer planning

One of our staff members will collaborate with your organisation to determine and plan a transfer from that organisation to our archive.

Our staff provide advice on what the transfer process involves, gathers information about the records and advises what products we have that may be of assistance.

Your organisation and our staff will agree on roles and responsibilities by agreeing to a Transfer Management Plan Agreement. This outlines that the transfer process is a collaborative effort between the two parties and ensures that both are informed of factors which might affect the transfer at any stage.

Step 2. Transfer preparations

Our staff collaborate with your organisation to prepare for a transfer of public records to our archive.

They will assess the condition of the records and advise how to classify the access statuses of the records. For physical records, guidance on how to list and box the records will be provided. Your organisation needs to send a complete list of the records being transferred for us to review.

We will conduct a sample check for quality assurance before the records are physically transferred. For physical records, this process is called a ‘box check’ and this occurs on the site where the records are held.

When we receive the Access Authority Form and Transfer Agreement Form signed by the regulated organisation we will confirm the date of transfer. The regulated organisation then arranges safe transport for the records to one of our archives.

Step 3. Transfer

The public records are then physically transferred from your organisation to our archives. The applicant will be notified when the records have been received.

Step 4. Post transfer

We describe the contextual information of the public records transferred and publish the information on our online finding aid ‘Archway’ to make the records available to the public.

You will be notified when the transfer is complete and the records are discoverable on Archway.

Digital transfers

Like physical public records, digital public records can also be transferred to us as well. We manage digital transfers in stages on a case-by-case basis. These stages are similar to the stages of a physical transfer, except detailed analysis work must be done beforehand in order to assess the feasibility of the digital transfer, and then to plan it.

The transferring organisation should ensure adequate resources are made available for the digital transfer.

Many process steps are similar for physical and digital transfers, for example, the use of disposal authorities and access authorities. However the order of the steps for digital transfers does not always match that of physical transfers. One key difference is that much of the work which happens in the ‘Transfer Preparation’ stage for physical transfers instead takes place in the ‘Transfer Initiation’ stage for digital transfers.

A distinctive characteristic of digital transfers is the repetitive nature of some of the steps. There are likely to be many recurrences of analysis being done, and issues with files, metadata or tools being resolved throughout the process. Initial test extracts or trial transfers are also necessary, while sample checks are done with physical information and records. This means that flexibility is essential when planning time frames for a digital transfer. If you are involved in a digital transfer, we encourage you to provide feedback to assist with shaping the guidance, and to share experiences with others in the sector.

Deferred transfer

When the records have been in existence for 25 years and appraised as having archival value, but a regulated organisation needs to retain them for ongoing business use it can request an exemption from the mandatory transfer requirement.

The administrative head of the regulated organisation and the Chief Archivist can agree in writing that the transfer of the public records may be deferred for up to five years. This agreement may be renewed, and the Chief Archivist may choose to impose additional conditions as part of the agreement to defer transfer. To apply for a deferred transfer, please contact us.

Transfer during administrative change

Regulated organisations can transfer public records from one regulated organisation to another. Transferring public records between regulated organisations usually reflects a transfer of function between agencies caused by:

  • new legislation

  • a change in ministerial portfolios

  • ministerial directive

  • a change in government

  • a merger or splitting of regulated organisations or local authorities.

When administrative changes result in transferring a function to another regulated organisation, information and records related to the function are also transferred to a receiving regulated organisation.

The receiving regulated organisation that takes over responsibilities must notify the Chief Archivist within 3 months of the transfer taking place.

This is covered under section 23 of the Public Records Act.

This process is designed to support the regulated organisations to manage information and records related to the administrative changes effectively for their business continuity.