Speech to the Association of Local Government Information Management (ALGIM)

  • Nathan Guy
Archives New Zealand

Good morning everyone. I'm delighted to have this opportunity to speak to you today. Thanks Jolanda for your warm welcome.

It’s great to see so many delegates and exhibitors taking part in this fourth ALGIM Records Management Symposium.

As Minister Responsible for Archives New Zealand, I’m well aware of how important it is we preserve our records and archives; at both central and local government level.

In a democracy, records and archives help protect the rights and entitlements of citizens. They support accountability, transparency, and evidence-based decision making.

They give citizens certainty over the law and the processes of central and local government.

They are also important to our nation’s heritage, because they tell our history and our stories. They help to tell us who we are and where we’ve come from.

The Public Records Act 2005, which sets the framework for information management and recordkeeping in New Zealand, is just as important for local authorities as it is for government.

Included in the Act’s purpose is the following statement: “to enhance public confidence in the integrity of public records and local authority records”.

In effect, to make sure we are accountable for our actions by ensuring that full and accurate records of the affairs of central and local government are created and maintained.

Saving, storing and maintaining records is not without its challenges though. An Archives New Zealand survey last year into local government recordkeeping practices found that 55 per cent of local authorities have records in a format they can no longer access.

On the positive side, there is growing awareness of this problem and a determination to tackle it.

Some 92 per cent of respondents said they have a formal recordkeeping programme in place, or are working towards one. 

Keeping records safe

2011 has been quite a year. The earthquakes in Canterbury and what this has meant for the people living there, the far reaching business consequences and the implications for government have been profound.

The earthquakes have highlighted the impact that natural disasters can have on New Zealand.

Many records and archives were lost or damaged as a result of these earthquakes. Having a plan or strategy in place can help to save records and/or minimise this damage.

Currently Archives New Zealand is working in the Canterbury region to help manage the rescue and recovery of records and address priority areas.

This includes a new Canterbury Earthquakes Disposal Authority to assist public offices. This will be used as a template for assisting local authorities with the disposal of protected records affected by these earthquakes.

Unfortunately lost and damaged paper records can’t be replaced. This highlights how important it is to save records in the digital environment.

Digital continuity                                     

In 2009 I announced the Digital Continuity Action Plan, which was the world’s first government-mandated, public sector approach to preserving our digital records.

In 2010 I announced $12.6 million in new Budget funding to develop a Government Digital Archive. This will help build a secure system to store, preserve and give access to important public records.

In 2013 this archive will begin to take in records from across government.  I also see the potential for this archive to help build the recordkeeping capacity for New Zealand as a whole and for it to be used by members of organisations like yours.

The Canterbury businesses, and government and local authority agencies that had their records and information stored in off-site back-up systems are much better placed to maintain business continuity.

In today’s world, online is frontline. Digital technology, including the internet, is transforming the way we interact and do business – creating significant benefits for how we do this business and interact with the public.

Date re-use

Earlier today you heard from Brendan Boyle, CE Department of Internal Affairs, talking about open government and making information more widely available to many more people.

You keep what you need to keep in a safe and secure environment and ensure it is usable into the future.

While data re-use is a central government initiative I know local authorities are mindful of the benefits this can bring.

In 2009 I launched the data.govt.nz website. Run by the Department of Internal Affairs, making sense of government data has become a lot easier as a result.  The website makesnon-personal government data more discoverable, useable and relevant to New Zealanders.

Government wants to make it easier for businesses, researchers, analysts and journalists – in fact, anyone with an interest in information - to access the data they need.

Our government departments are producing a lot of interesting and useful information, but it is spread among numerous websites, making it difficult for people to gain a clear idea of what is available.

Government's data should be used to promote business and knowledge.  This website underscores government's commitment to supporting open data for use by all New Zealanders.

I applaud local authorities for making their geospatial data available for re-use.

The current economic pressures are driving the need for us all to be smarter about what we do.  This has impacted across both central and local government.  I think there is also a huge willingness to move from the ‘this is my patch’ mentality to what can be achieved through collaboration in a win – win situation.

The shared services concept is being adopted across both central and local government. 

Shared services does have implications for recordkeeping.

Robust recordkeeping

Good records and information management is an enabler for change; administrative change and digital transformation.

As we increasingly operate in the digital environment it is essential to have robust recordkeeping frameworks in place to ensure that accurate and reliable information is available to support digital processes.

This is not about having the latest automated system or off-the-shelf software package. It’s about having a considered recordkeeping strategy - a strategy that supports the creation and ongoing management and availability of records.

Digital technology has the potential to automate and streamline information management. To capitalise on this you must incorporate good information management and architectural practices into the systems. They in turn need to be well supported by the appropriate resources and staff to do the job.

All of you here today recognise this.

This can be testing in today’s world of on-going change.  Systems are changing, products, priorities and ways of working are continually evolving.

Good information management helps ensure continuity of service and continued accountability during times of change.  Records from yesterday form the basis of decisions made today which will in turn impact on tomorrow.

Responding to change

In today’s environment, the way we operate must change in order to remain responsive. Government is focused on delivering better, smarter public services with limited resources. I think you are too.                          

On 1 February this year the National Library of New Zealand and Archives New Zealand integrated with the Department of Internal Affairs. The integration of these three departments was an important first step in delivering better public services more efficiently.

Archives New Zealand and the National Library now have access to a greater range of resources and expertise within the Department. This is particularly important as they continue their good work in the digital environment and making more information available online for New Zealanders.

Last year saw the amalgamation of councils across Auckland into the one super city.  Through its spatial plan Auckland has the potential to provide New Zealand with a hub for economic recovery and growth.

Aucklandis predicted to take up to 60 per cent of New Zealand's population growth over the next 30 years providing New Zealand with significant economic opportunities. 

Economies of scale in this constrained environment are all important. It also makes sense for smaller councils to work together. To collaborate, to share skills and pool essential resources such as archiving and recordkeeping.

Collaboration

Sharing resources and working collaboratively is a great enabler. In theWairarapa the Wairarapa Archive has forged a number of long-term community partnerships. 

Formed as a community archive as part of the Masterton District Library, the archive has also assumed a corporate role, looking after the archived records of the Masterton District Council.  The archive maintains on-going relationships with local education providers, supporting and enhancing their curriculum development in the local history area. 

Making innovative use of the Community Partnership Fund has enabled the Wairarapa Archive to scan and display photographs from the collections of the Martinborough and Eketahuna museums, and local history groups in Carterton and Greytown. 

The Wairarapa Archive worked closely with Archives New Zealand in developing The Community Archive database. This is New Zealand’s hub for nearly 400 archival collections. Contributors include individuals, small local organisations and large institutions with nationally-significant collections.

Collaboration between local authorities means you can leverage the cost of good recordkeeping management across your organisations.

ALGIM has already set the bar by taking out the 2010 International Excellence in Municipal Systems Award for its innovative Information Management Toolkit.

Congratulations. You beat strong competition from the United States, UK, Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium and Canada (who I hear thought they had it in the bag) to become the inaugural winner of the award.

This award recognises the time and effort you put into developing the toolkit which is now recognised and used worldwide.

I understand more than 80 per cent of New Zealand councils are using the toolkit in their day to day activities and strategic information management planning.

Archives Central

I want to tell you about another example of collaboration that has happened in my own electorate of Otaki, of which I am very proud.

A big chunk of my electorate is part of the Horowhenua and Horizons Regional Council and this is where Archives Central – a shared archive – was created and launched in December last year.

This is a great project, both preserving our local history and stories and presenting the information online which means anyone from around the world can access it at any time.

A 21st century archive – bringing to life documents from the past and making them available into the future. It is a great example of local authorities working together proactively and cooperatively on a project of national significance.

This shared services initiative is a first for New Zealand – a single database cataloguing the archives of seven councils within the Horizons region.

By working together instead of individually these councils have achieved significant cost savings estimated at around $1.5 million.

Increasing online access to New Zealand’s heritage is a top priority for me.

It is great to see that local government is making a similar effort with joint initiatives like Archives Central.

Working collaboratively is cost-effective.  In these tight economic times governments at all levels have to look at ways to streamline services and serve the public more efficiently and effectively.

I’m very pleased that the Archives Central team worked closely with Archives New Zealand on this project, and I’m told this may become a model for other regions looking to do similar things.

I hope it does because we all have a vested interest in making this happen.

For people of all ages, digital content is a huge part of daily life. The internet is now the first port of call for many people seeking information.

Government investment

I can assure you that online content is only going to become more important in the future. Government is investing $1.5 billion in rolling out broadband across the country.

Within the next 10 years we want to have ultra-fast broadband available to 75 per cent of New Zealanders.

In effect, broadband is the pipeline - the challenge now is to make the most of this opportunity and fill those pipes with information into every home, school and business in New Zealand.

When it comes to government data and information, people expect – even demand that it will be available online.

ICT is a major priority for the government, in particular maximising the returns on our annual investment of around $2 billion. Any savings we can make by working together, combining back-office functions and streamlining services will be welcomed by taxpayers, and ratepayers.

Conclusion

Thanks for inviting me along to your Symposium today.  These events are an excellent opportunity to share ideas and knowledge in the all import world of information management and recordkeeping.

Best wishes for the rest of your time together.