News Next article

Public Records are a matter of Public Record

You can't sell public records, any discovered heritage records should be returned. Please report unauthorised sales

By Archives NZ 16 March 2021

Unauthorised sale of public records and local authority protected records

A guest post by Archives New Zealand.

Under the Public Records Act 2005, it’s an offence to sell a public record or local authority protected record without authorisation from the Chief Archivist.

A record could be a document or other information in any form including (without limitation) a signature, seal, image, plan, map, recording, data, and computer file.

What are public or local authority records?

The Public Records Act defines a record as “information, whether in its original form or otherwise, including (without limitation) a document, a signature, a seal, text, images, sound, speech or data compiled, recorded or stored… in written form… on film or other medium” (section 4).

A public record or local authority record is any record, in any form, created or received by a public office or local authority in the conduct of its affairs.

Broadly speaking, a record is any documentation or evidence of activity.

The problem

Government records are paid for by public funds and managed under the Public Records Act 2005.

These records contain a wealth of information of historical interest and enable the government to be held accountable.

When records are sold without authorisation, the public can be deprived of their right to access this information.

Buyers and sellers should ensure that all government records have left government control lawfully, and may then be lawfully bought and sold.

How you can help

To ensure that New Zealand’s documentary heritage is preserved and publicly accessible, Archives New Zealand needs your help to safely and securely return any government records that are lost, stolen or have been disposed of without authorisation.

They should be returned to Archives New Zealand’s public office or archival holdings – or to the local authority of origin.

What if the government threw the records away?

Public offices and local authorities are required to follow strict procedures when disposing of records.

The Public Records Act and standards issued under it require that the destruction, sale, archiving or other disposal of records happens in line with schedules approved by the Chief Archivist.

The lawful disposal of records is therefore documented and any undocumented claim of disposal for sale may be considered suspect.

What do I do if I find a government document being offered for sale?

We ask dealers and collectors to cooperate with us so that all the historical materials belonging to Archives New Zealand are returned.

Avoid buying, selling, or trading in historical New Zealand Government records that have been lost, stolen or otherwise not authorised for disposal.

If you’ve got any questions or concerns about documents you have or come across, pleaseemail or phone on 04 499 5595 and Archives New Zealand will be able to help.


Trade Me's thoughts:

We support the efforts of Archives NZ and work with them to remove from the site any listings that are confirmed as being public records.

Image used courtesy Archives NZ.


Archives NZ
Archives NZ