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Nathan Guy

1 June, 2010

Announcement of Government Digital Archive

Thank you for the welcome and the opportunity to speak today.

I'm very pleased to see the great turnout here at the forum, and the engagement in public record keeping. I understand there is increasing interest in these forums, and that departments and staff are upping their game. This is great to see.

I'm here to speak to you about the use of digital technology, the challenge it presents for public recordkeeping and what the government is doing about it.

For people of all ages, digital content is a huge part of daily life. The internet is now the first port of call for many people seeking information.

When it comes to government data, people expect - even demand - that it will be available online.

And there is good progress underway, with both current information and historical. New Zealanders' land ownership records are now digital. Our identity records are digital. Our company records are online.

A major priority for Archives New Zealand is digitising content. Shipping lists from 1855 to the mid 1970s, war records from the South African War and World War One have been digitised and the next focus is on probates and wills.

To support internet access, the government has announced plans to invest $1.5 billion in rolling out broadband across the country.

Within the next 10 years we want to have ultra-fast broadband available to 75 percent of New Zealanders.

Clearly, digital information is going to become even more important in the future.

This is good news in terms of improved access, but at the same time it presents some major challenges for the public sector.

Here in New Zealand three-quarters of public sector agencies can no longer access some of their records. This can be caused by obsolete storage media, or unreadable software or hardware.

Public records deal with major issues, having an impact on society, the economy and people's lives, and we don't want to lose these important records.

For example: on one of my first visits to Archives New Zealand as Minister I was shown the findings from the 2005 Royal Commission of Inquiry into Genetic Modification. These records had been stored on zip files.

As you know zip files are out of date. And how long before USB memory sticks are out of date? The risk of losing a lot more material is high if we don't take action now.

In the 1980s we were told that CDs would last for a 100 years, but new research shows that's not the case, and their true lifespan is a lot shorter.

This is why the government launched the Digital Continuity Action Plan last year. The plan emphasises that digital continuity is a responsibility by everyone.

It is a world-first, in that no other country has developed such a unified public sector approach.

Of course, any action plan needs commitment and funding from the government.

For that reason, I am very pleased to make a major announcement this afternoon.

As part of the 2010 Budget the government is providing $12.6 million in new funding to develop a Government Digital Archive.

I have lobbied hard for this new money, which is a major investment in the future. This funding will provide a secure system to store, preserve and give access to important public records.

Most of you are public servants, so I probably don't need to remind you how tight the government's finances are. The fact this project has received the go-ahead shows how seriously the Government takes the work of Archives New Zealand, and the importance of preserving information.

It will be created by extending the National Library's National Digital Heritage Archive system so it can be used by Archives New Zealand for public sector records.

It will ensure that digital information is accessible, usable, and reusable by those who need it for as long as it is needed.

Both agencies will be working jointly on this project. The budget allocated includes $9.7 million for Archives New Zealand and $2.9 million for the National Library over the next four years.

This investment is crucial to preserve valuable government information and to make it widely available to the public online. We need to keep up with technology and promote open, transparent and accountable government.

This project means that our content, our records and our heritage will be protected and preserved for ourselves and for future generations to use.

It's also an endorsement of the digital preservation work already underway by Archives and the National Library.

Focusing on digital information is one of the reasons why the government has announced the merger of Archives New Zealand, the National Library and the Department of Internal Affairs.

As the Minister responsible for all three agencies I believe they share natural synergies. They all have a common focus on using digital technology and making public information widely accessible to citizens through the internet.

This move will allow expertise and resources to be pooled, while at the same time sharing back office costs.

All savings generated by this project will be redirected into better frontline services for the public.

Today it will be announced that Cabinet has approved the legislative changes to the Public Records Act required for this merger, and that those changes will be largely minimal and technical.

We have always made it clear that the major roles and functions of Archives New Zealand and the National Library will not be affected by this merger.

The statutory role, functions and independence of the Chief Archivist will be preserved and protected. The same applies to the National Librarian and Chief Librarian.

The Chief Archivist will be responsible to the Chief Executive of the new Department, and will be protected from any improper influence in performing his or her duties.

The principle of an independent check on government recordkeeping will be preserved by this legislation.

There will continue to be a separate Budget vote, and as the responsible Minister I will continue to receive independent advice from the Archives Council, Library Advisory Commission and the Guardians of the Turnbull Library.

We intend that the necessary legislation will be introduced by the end of July, with ongoing consultation - including through the select committee process.

A special website has been set up to keep stakeholders and the public well informed. You can find lots more information at

These important cultural assets will continue to be trusted and preserved for future generations.

I believe Archives New Zealand has an exciting future. The investment I've announced today will help future-proof it as an institution that all New Zealanders can be proud of.

Can I finish by thanking you all for the important work you are doing to preserve public records. Thank you for listening and I hope the rest of the day is productive and interesting.

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