TINZ submission to National Archival and Library Institutions Ministerial Group

Newsletter Co-editor
Member with Delegated Authority for Open Government Partnership, Parliamentarian Network and SGDs

David Dunsheath

TINZ Member with Delegated Authority for Open Government Partnership

Transparency Times Newsletter Co-editor

Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) supports the claim that all people of Aotearoa have the right of access to knowledge about our nation. They have the right to do so with confidence that it is accurate and unbiased. Knowledge enhances democratic accountability, cultural life and appreciation of our heritage, for current and future generations of civil society.

The key institutions which provide and safeguard this knowledge are Archives New Zealand, the National Library of New Zealand and Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision. The contributions these three ‘national archival and library institutions’ make to New Zealand’s culture and democracy is currently under review by the National Archival and Library Institutions (NALI) Ministerial Group.

TINZ prepared a submission through the review’s public feedback process that addressed five survey topics. 

Key challenges 

TINZ identified key challenges faced by these institutions, to be:

  • adequacy of resourcing to address on-going technological developments and practices for the capture and secure preservation of knowledge. In particular is the digitisation of records and increasing use of social media platforms for important communications.
  • transparent capture and preservation of reliable and comprehensive, non-partisan knowledge into the future.

TINZ identified the need for restructuring in order to ensure these institutions have the independence and authority necessary to effectively carry out their responsibilities. At present these institutions are embedded within the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA). Positioned as such, they lack independence from DIA’s senior management,  and from government-of-the-day Ministerial influences over DIA.

TINZ identifies that the governance, policy setting, and operational resourcing of the national archival and library institutions, must be safeguarded:

  • without potential, compromising influences to achieve effective short and long-term strategic outcomes and stability (such as undesirable influences including government, civil service, other bodies, and individuals), and
  • within appropriate budgets/resourcing.

Restructure for independence 

TINZ recommends the creation of a new Officer of Parliament role under which the three national archival and library institutions are positioned. This role will better:

  • provide the necessary independence and benefit from economies of scale for operational purposes, and
  • ensure the integrity of their outcomes through independence from government and state sector prioritising influences.

Working together

Whereas the three national archival and library institutions have differing roles, their common mission is to provide the public with readily accessible access to reliable, objective and unbiased knowledge of our nation.

Merging these three institutions under the leadership of an Officer of Parliament would strengthen the necessary independence from external influences. The resulting opportunities from their standalone merged structure include:

  • the required integrity of their outcomes through complete independence from government and state sector prioritising influences
  • greater consistency of approach and outcomes, across the institutions
  • shared subject matter expert resources for the digital challenges to be faced
  • beneficial economies of scale overall.

TINZ also recommends that, given the technological challenges faced by these institutions, a public enquiry/review needs to be held. This would be planned to determine the nature and scope of knowledge that civil society wishes to gather and safeguard for future generations.

Long term needs

The public must be given full confidence that these three institutions have authoritative, independent and fully transparent governance, policies, practice. This would require such institutions to have on-going resources sufficient for their timely, reliable capture, preservation and public access to the nation’s records of government, public sector and civil society activities. By earning and gaining public confidence, New Zealand’s democratic processes and transparent, open-functioning of the state, can be safeguarded.

These arrangements require considerable resourcing. They must demonstrate sound value for taxpayers’ money against well-debated objectives, and be subject to periodic review by the Office of Auditor General. Hence, the need to initially review the required scope of knowledge to be captured by such institutions. 

The full submission is available here

Transparency Times intends to keep you informed of the findings from this important review.