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Public offices and local authorities responsibilities

This page outlines the responsibilities that public offices and local authorities have under the Public Records Act 2005 (PRA).

Public Offices

Terminology
Creation of public records
Looking after public records
Disposing of public records
Transfer of public records/archives
Deferred transfer of public records
Providing access to public records

Local Authorities

Terminology
Creation of local authority records
Looking after local authority records
Disposing of local authority records and protected records
Transfer of local authority archives
Providing access to local authority records and archives

Public Offices

Public offices are central government organisations covered by the Public Records Act 2005. They include government departments, crown entities, crown research institutes, state enterprises, district health boards, tertiary institutions and schools.

To check if your organisation is a public office see the List of public offices.

Terminology

The records and archives created by public offices are referred to using specialist terms in the Public Records Act 2005.

For a further definition of public records see the Archives New Zealand Glossary of Terms

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Creation of Public Records

Under section 17 of the Public Records Act 2005 public offices are required to create and maintain full and accurate records of their business activities including those carried out by independent contractors. The creation of a business record will help your organisation to run efficiently, as well as support government accountability.

Records should be created in accordance with normal prudent business activity. What you need to document depends on the type of activity being undertaken and the level of risk associated with it. For further information on how to create records see the fact sheet, Make a Record

Archives New Zealand has issued the Create and Maintain Recordkeeping Standard. This mandatory standard outlines the requirement to create records in more detail and explains what normal prudent business practice means.

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Looking after Public Records

Section 17 of the Public Records Act 2005 not only requires public offices to create full and accurate records of their business activity but also to maintain them for as long as they are needed.

Full and accurate records must be:

To ensure that full and accurate records are created and managed for as long as they are needed they should be captured into a recordkeeping framework.

Archives New Zealand has issued the Create and Maintain Recordkeeping Standard. This mandatory standard outlines the requirement to maintain full and accurate records in more detail and explains what is meant by a recordkeeping framework.

For information about creating and managing full and accurate digital records also see the Electronic Recordkeeping Metadata Standard
For information about managing and storing physical records see the Storage Standard.

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Disposing of Public Records

Under section 18 of the Public Records Act 2005 no-one may dispose of a public record without authorisation from the Chief Archivist. Dispose means "the transfer of control of a record, or its destruction or alteration " – for example a record could be destroyed or it could be transferred to Archives New Zealand or to some other archiving institution.

To dispose of records a public office must get authorisation in the form of a disposal authority. A disposal authority is a formal legal permission from the Chief Archivist to dispose of public records. It shows:

For advice on the disposal process see the section Records Appraisal and Disposal.

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Transfer of Public Records/Public Archives to Archives New Zealand

Section 21 of the Public Records Act 2005 requires public offices to transfer records of long-term value over 25 years of age to Archives New Zealand or an approved repository. The transfer of records must be authorised by a current disposal authority.

For more information on the transfer process see Transfer of Public Archives

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Deferred Transfer of Records

If a public office has records which are more than 25 years old but that are still required for on going business use, the public office may retain these records by entering into a deferred transfer agreement.

Records over 25 years of age that have been deferred for transfer must be classified as open access or restricted access (link to access section below). If classified as open access records, these records must be available for inspection free of charge. If these records are restricted, access conditions or restrictions must be specified and entered in Archives New Zealand's public access register.

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Providing Access to Public Records

Section 43 of the Public Records Act states that when public records have been in existence for 25 years or are about to be transferred to the control of the Chief Archivist the public office must classify the records as either open access records or restricted access records.

When determining the access provisions of records it is necessary to balance the interests of users to accessible information with the need to protect records to ensure their ongoing preservation. Access conditions must also uphold legal and other requirements by withholding access to certain records. Decisions on access should be a result of balancing these interests.

Archives New Zealand has developed the discretionary Access Standard and supporting advisory notice Making Access Decisions Under the Public Records Act both of which provide advice and guidance for public offices determining the status of their records.

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Local Authorities

Local authorities are covered by the Public Records Act 2005. These organisations include all regional councils and territorial authorities, council controlled organisations and local government organisations.

Terminology

The records and archives created by local authorities are referred to using specialist terms in the Public Records Act 2005.

For further definitions of a local authority records see the Archives New Zealands Glossary of Terms.

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Creation of Local Authority Records

Under section 17 of the Public Records Act 2005 local authorities are required to create and maintain full and accurate records of their business activities including those carried out by independent contractors. The creation of a business records will help your organisation to run efficiently, as well as support local government accountability.

Records should be created in accordance with normal prudent business activity. What you need to document depends on the type of activity being undertaken and the level of risk associated with it. For further information on how to create records see the fact sheet, Make a Record.

Archives New Zealand has issued the Create and Maintain Recordkeeping Standard. This mandatory standard outlines the requirement to create records in more detail and explains what normal prudent business practice means.

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Looking After Local Authority Records

Section 17 of the Public Records Act 2005 not only requires local authorities to create full and accurate records of their business activity but also to maintain them for as long as they are needed.

Full and accurate records must be:

To ensure that full and accurate records are created and managed for as long as they are needed they should be captured into a recordkeeping framework.

Archives New Zealand has issued the Create and Maintain Recordkeeping Standard. This mandatory standard outlines the requirement to maintain full and accurate records in more detail and explains what is meant by a recordkeeping framework.

For information about creating and managing full and accurate digital records also see the Electronic Recordkeeping Metadata Standard

For information about managing and storing physical records see the Storage Standard.

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Disposing of Local Authority Records and Protected Records

The Public Records Act 2005 allows the Chief Archivist to declare certain local authority records as protected. You need to obtain authorisation from the Chief Archivist before you can dispose of these protected records.

The Local Government Protected Records Schedule sets out the classes of records declared protected by the Chief Archivist.

While not all local authority records are protected under the Public Records Act 2005 they should still be thought about prior to disposal as they may be covered by other legislation. If you have records that are not protected or needed for administration or legal purposes you can destroy or otherwise dispose of them.

More information on disposal for local authority records and local authority protected records can be found on the page Advice for Local Authorities.

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Looking after Local Authority Archives

Once no longer required for business purposes or once they are at least 25 years of age protected records and other local authority records you think need to be kept, can be transferred to your archive.

More information about running a local authority archive can be found on the page Advice for Local Authorities and in the Storage Standard.

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Providing Access to Local Authority Records and Archives

Section 45 of the Public Records Act 2005 states that when local authority records become local authority archives, that is, they have been in existence for 25 years or are about to be transferred to the local authority archive the local authority must classify the records as either open access records or restricted access records.

When determining the access provisions of records it is necessary to balance the interests of users to accessible information with the need to protect records to ensure their ongoing preservation. Access conditions must also uphold legal and other requirements by withholding access to certain records. Decisions on access should be a result of balancing these interests.

Archives New Zealand has developed the discretionary Access Standard and supporting advisory notice Making Access Decisions Under the Public Records Act both of which provide advice and guidance for determining the status of records under the Public Records Act 2005.

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