Public Records Act


The Public Records Act was passed by Parliament on 14 April 2005. It replaces the Archives Act 1957 and the document and archives provisions in the Local Government Act 1974. The Act comes into effect immediately.

Audits start in 2010 - all public offices and local authorities must be ready!


The new Act legislation reflects the changes in technology, legislation and recordkeeping practices that have occurred in the past 47 years. It also provides a more enabling and less prescriptive style of legislation.

The objectives of the legislation are to:

* promote accountability between the Crown, the public, and Government agencies               

* enhance public confidence in the integrity of public records               

* enhance and promote our historical and cultural heritage               

* encourage partnership and goodwill envisaged by the Treaty of Waitangi in relation to public records.


New Recordkeeping Framework

The Act introduces a new recordkeeping framework, and focuses on supporting good government recordkeeping, in addition to the current emphasis on the disposal of records. Good recordkeeping is simply good management practice and is an essential part of efficient government, as it supports day-to-day operations as well as legal and administrative requirements.

Who's covered?

The Act applies to all public offices, as defined in Section 4 of the Act including all government departments, CRIs, SOEs and tertiary institutions. Local government is covered by a slightly different regime.

Key Duties

The Act introduces two key duties that all public offices and local authorities must adhere to. They are:

Requirement to create and maintain records

Under the Public Records Act, all public offices and local authorities are required to create and maintain full and accurate records in accordance with normal, prudent business practice. They must also be accessible over time.

Authority of the Chief Archivist required to dispose of public records

The Public Records Act continues the Archives Act requirement to gain the Chief Archivist's authorisation before disposing of public records. Disposal is the archival term for the ultimate fate of public records; usually either by destruction or transfer to the Chief Archivist.

A further requirement for Public offices is:

Records over 25 years of age

A new requirement is that records that are not held by Archives New Zealand, that are 25 years or older, will be available for transfer to Archives New Zealand. However, if records are still required for administrative use, a transfer can be deferred. At 25 years, records will need to be classified as having either open access or restricted access. For advice on this provision, contact Arrangement & Description, phone 04 499 5595 or email.

Immediate impacts


If your organisation already has a Disposal Schedule authorised by the Chief Archivist, or has signed onto the General Disposal Authority programme, this authorisation is transitioned and will remain operational until the agreement expires.


Current access restrictions for records already transferred to Archives New Zealand are transitioned and remain in force until the withdrawal or expiry of the restriction.

Other Impacts

Mandatory & Voluntary Standards

The Public Records Act enables the Chief Archivist to issue mandatory standards that will achieve certain recordkeeping outcomes. We will undertake a formal consultation process in the development of these standards and ensure that stakeholders have the opportunity to participate in this process. The Act enables voluntary standards and guidance to be issued without consultation.


The legislation introduces measures to assess whether agencies are meeting the requirements; they are:

* Audits

Independent audits of agencies recordkeeping practices will commence in 2010 and take place every 5-10 years;

* Annual report to Parliament

The Chief Archivist is required to report to Parliament annually on the state of government recordkeeping. The first report is in 2005.


Information for Local Government

Key changes for local government include:

Disposal of protected records

Under the Local Government Act 1974, the Chief Archivist has issued a schedule of local authority records that may not be destroyed without the Chief Archivist's authority. The latest schedule is dated 17 December 1998. Existing authorisations are rolled over under the Public Records Act. Local government may continue to dispose of records that are not specifically protected in accordance with normal, prudent business practice.

Free access

An important change is that the Act protects the right of the public to view unrestricted local authority archives, free of charge. Local authorities must provide free inspection of any archive that has not been restricted as soon as is reasonably practicable after a request for access has been made. Local authorities may charge for "value added" services such as photocopying, research, transcription etc., consistent with the general powers available to local authorities under the Local Government Act 2002.


The Chief Archivist can inspect local government recordkeeping incidents. Our intention is to work constructively with agencies to resolve any issues.

Support and Guidance

Archives New Zealand will provide support and guidance to all agencies. This includes:

* Continuum, our suite of best practice tools is available in hardcopy or from our website.              

* We are also developing additional resources to support local government              

* Seminars which will be held around the country               

* Regular newsletters will explain the changes and their impacts               

* Or contact our staff.

Further Information

Copies of the Act will available shortly from Bennetts Bookshops. Electronic copies are also available on the Knowledge Basket (external link). A special publication for stakeholders is currently being prepared to outline the changes.



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