The ODT has obtained a report from the Crown Law Office via the OIA, which rather diplomatically suggests there will need to be some very “carefully worded” specifications of the arrangement to merge Archives NZ into the Department of Internal Affairs. It states the Chief Archivist will require “protection from improper influence” to maintain the constitutional imperative that the Archive is empowered to act independently and continue proper “standard-setting, monitoring and auditing”.
Why does the Crown Law Office need to say this? Well, because in the ideologically driven haste that characterizes so many of this government’s grand plans, the policy paper outlining the changes has the Chief Archivist “accountable to the DIA’s Chief Executive” – hardly a position from which to maintain independence. Indeed “John Timmins, chairman of the Archives and Records Association’s Otago-Southland branch, said the merger would undermine the Chief Archivist and prove unworkable”.
There also seems to be some disagreement about just how much the merger to a “super platform” will really save taxpayers. Former Professor of Finance and Accounting at Waikato DrDonald Gilling, who also fears the merger may threaten the Chief Archivist’s independence, estimates the savings may be as little as “$166,000 p/a, while digitisation – a key justification for the merger – would produce spiralling costs”. A view supported by people here who would know. Yet Internal Affairs Minister Nathan Guy reckons it’ll save $3 million to $9 million over 4 years – good luck with that one Guy!
There’s a lot to be lost in terms of democratic accountability and access to our documentary national heritage when this merger turns to crap. And for what gain? The imaginary projections of someone who either can’t add, or is talking out of a hole in their arse.