• Richard Worth
National Library


E nga iwi, e nga mana, tena koutou.
(Translation: All peoples, all authorities, greetings).

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to the Banquet Hall today to celebrate the launch of the National Digital Heritage Archive.

I would also like to welcome my Ministerial colleagues - the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Chris Finlayson, the Minister for Research, Science and Technology Wayne Mapp and the Minister of Broadcasting Jonathan Coleman - as well as members of the Education and Science Select Committee, and overseas guests.

It is remarkable to see such a wide range of people here today - representing not only government agencies - but also New Zealand and international businesses, community agencies, and arts and cultural organisations.

What it clearly demonstrates to me is the growing significance of the digital world on both our working lives and our leisure time. It is an influence that remains unfettered by age, culture or nationality.

What we all share is a desire to harness this digital potential and maximise the opportunities it provides, which is becoming ever more important in these challenging economic times.

Access to digital infrastructure is a key factor in supporting innovation in New Zealand. It gives us a powerful advantage, not just in our economic success, but also in how we shape our identity on the global stage.

As they say, knowledge is power and in that context top quality New Zealand content has a critical role to play in promoting and enhancing our unique heritage, as well as helping businesses and communities build their knowledge and expertise.

Increasingly, that content is digital, online and immediately accessible. While it has opened a whole new world of possibilities - just look at the explosion of sites like Youtube and Trademe - it also offers its fair share of challenges.

One of those challenges is, of course, capturing that digital content and preserving it so that future generations can access it. It's all very well creating great New Zealand content but if we don't keep it and look after it then we will lose incredibly valuable material.

In a world where all government business is now conducted electronically, there is not only the risk that essential records will not survive, but also the simultaneous danger of vast amounts of ephemeral information paralysing the system.

Multiplied across government and the public sector, this exponential increase in electronically-available and sustained information may have the paradoxical effect of reducing the knowledge that can be usefully gleaned from it: if files are not created and preserved so as to be searchable, they simply disappear into this ‘digital landfill', which is of no use either to serving governments or future historians.

New Zealand's digital memory deserves our attention and our investment and this is why the National Digital Heritage Archive is so important.

As a digital storehouse, the NDHA will ensure that websites, digital images, CDs, DVDs and other digitally-born and digitised items that make up our heritage, will be preserved and accessible to all New Zealanders, now and in the future.
It will ensure our digital heritage will still be accessible - even when the original technologies have become obsolete.

It will mean that our school students, researchers and universities, businesses and communities - and our families and whanau - will continue to be able to delve into, and learn about all aspects of New Zealand's life and culture. And who knows what form that content will take as digital technology continues to challenge the way content is created and presented.

The NDHA may seem a simple concept but like many simple ideas, it's hugely complex. I understand it has been an enormously complicated process and project; one that has taken significant time, resource, thinking and creativity to deliver. (I'm also pleased to note that it was delivered on time and under budget.)

It's also been a collaborative effort with international partners, and is a tangible demonstration of how a private and public sector partnership can successfully deliver an innovative and world-leading solution.

The National Digital Heritage Archive developed in New Zealand is the first commercially viable preservation system in the world and I understand it has already generated a lot of overseas interest.

I would like to take this opportunity to commend our National Library for not only identifying the issues around digital preservation, but in leading the critical thinking to address it practically, with the help of international partners, Ex Libris and Sun Microsystems.

National Libraries are more usually associated with collecting and preserving physical documents, and while this continues to be a key role, the Library, under the guidance of its Chief Executive, Penny Carnaby, has also embraced digital content and the opportunities it provides through greater online access.

This institution has taken a lead role in directing New Zealand's digital content approach and the NDHA is core to addressing the collection, preservation and access of digital-born content.

New Zealand, like the rest of the world, is facing tough economic times. We need innovative solutions, creative people and access to leading technology to help build a strong future, and maintain a strong heritage.

The National Digital Heritage Archive is a great example of the successful combination of these elements.