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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Department merger seen as threat to democracy in New Zealand

Veteran archivists Ray Grover and Kathryn Patterson have published an op-ed in the Dominion Post of Wellington, arguing that Government moves to subsume Archives New Zealand into the Dept of Internal Affairs threaten the basis of a healthy democracy.

As they go on to say, Accountability is a cornerstone of a working democracy, where politicians and officials are held responsible for their actions.  But for this accountability to be possible the nation's memory must be reliable, intact and available. There must be an impartial public record of decisions and the implementation of policies by government that is safe from interference.

This is what the independence of the Archives of New Zealand guaranteed.

Now, the situation is going to change.

Before Christmas the State Sector Management Bill is expected to return to the House for its second reading. Once this Bill is passed, after 1February 2011, preservation of the public record in New Zealand will have more in common with Third World states than Western-style democracies.

As the two writers go on to demonstrate, this is a worryingly retrograde step.

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