15/ 4/ 1999 Hon Jack Elder National Archives - Launch Of Local Government Schedule

  • Jack Elder
Internal Affairs

We are here today to formally launch the Records Disposal Schedule for Local Government which has recently been issued by the Chief Archivist. I come to this task in two capacities : As Minister of Internal Affairs I am responsible for the National Archives and as Associate Minister of Local Government I am concerned with the efficiency and effectiveness of local authorities.

Only a few weeks ago I launched the NZ History.net web site in this very room. On that occasion, it was appropriate to recognise the link between the work of National Archives and the preservation of the history and heritage of New Zealand. Just along the passageway here you will find some of the most important foundation documents in our country - including the Treaty of Waitangi and the Womens' Suffrage Petition of 1893. This Schedule is an important supporting tool for the work of National Archives in protecting our archival heritage.

But archives programmes are not only concerned with the identification and preservation of history and heritage. The management of records and other information resources has always been a necessary part of good business practice and a cornerstone of accountable government. This is more than ever true today as automated information systems make this task more complex and challenging. The Disposal Schedule is a tool to assist local authorities in efficient and accountable recordkeeping.

The Schedule identifies classes of protected records that cannot be disposed of by local authorities without consultating the Chief Archivist. It represents the principal link between the national programme established under the Archives Act and the archives provisions of the Local Government Act 1974.

As many of you are aware the Government has recently adopted a number of overarching goals and strategic priorities. Among the overarching goals is the statement:

'We are proud of our New Zealand identity and will celebrate, foster and protect our cultural, historical and environmental heritage.'

The Schedule provides a tool for identifying and protecting, local government records and archives for the use of historians, genealogists and community at large. The records of government, whether they be central or local, make up some of the most important raw material of historical research, and comprise a vital part of our unique heritage. Local authority records are a particularly rich source for community historians.

In addition the Schedule furthers Government's strategic priorities of

'expand our knowledge base and technological capability' and

'improve the quality of our regulatory environment."

It is in respect of this second priority where the Schedule is of particular relevance to me as Associate Minister of Local Government. Efficient management of records including their orderly retention or disposal is an essential part of good recordkeeping. To some, recordkeeping is seen as a tedious by-product of business. Recordkeeping however plays an essential role in providing evidence, accountability and the corporate memory of Government at all levels.

Without good recordkeeping, local authorities are unable to properly protect their financial, legal and other rights, those of their ratepayers, clients and of others affected by their actions and decisions, as well as exposing themselves to direct and indirect costs.

This document is not the first such Local Government Schedule to be issued. For some years now there have been calls to have the previous schedule updated to reflect significant changes in the legislation, for example the Resource Management Act; the outsourcing of functions to Local Authority Trading Enterprises; and the radically altered technological environment. The new Schedule has been fully brought up to date to meet these developments.

National Archives did not produce this Schedule alone. The Archives, most specifically the Statutory Regulatory Group, played a key facilitative role. However to ensure the final document reflected current realities and met the needs of both local authorities as well as the National Archives, a co-operative approach was taken to develop Schedule. This enabled the experience and talents of local authority recordkeepers to complement the skills of National Archives staff. In many respects I believe this to have been an excellent example of collaboration between the different tiers of government to achieve common objectives.

The value of this Schedule is enhanced by a number of supporting documents including some

'Explanatory notes' and

Self Help Guide entitled 'Saving our Records for the Future'

These will ensure that that the Schedule is properly understood and appropriate mechanisms for good recordkeeping are put in place. I trust that all local authorities and those providing recordkeeping services and advice to them will use these products and I commend them to you.

Thank you.