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NZ Chief Archivist calls for information management dignity

Wednesday 28, Oct 2020

NZ Chief Archivist calls for information management dignity

Retiring NZ Chief Archivist, Richard Foy, made the 2020 NZ Branch RIMPA Awards virtual meeting the venue for an inspirational commentary after his three-year term as head of Archives New Zealand.  He told the on-line gathering that he had learned that the most potent reason for maintenance of public records was “dignity ... human dignity”.     

He declared: “The data, information, records and evidence we retain hold the power to inform our policies and account for the decisions that impact on the lives of New Zealanders. They cloak in dignity those that are the most vulnerable and marginalised in our communities; those that seldom have voice or presence, especially in the face of powerful bureaucracies. 

“I mean especially for the citizens and customers of government who seldom have that voice because we’ve seldom designed our information systems and services with them truly in mind.”  He went on:

“Under the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, we have a very special and specific obligation to Māori and iwi (tribes). We must deal with scale and meaning in a Te Ao Māori (Māori world) context.”

Most Challenging Years

A week earlier, Mr Foy had revealed the end of his term in the Archives’ quarterly newsletter He Kohinga Mahara (Collection of Memories), announcing: “I’m sure many of you will have heard by now that I will not be continuing permanently in the role of Chief Archivist.

“The last three-odd years have been some of the most interesting and challenging of my career, and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved at Archives New Zealand in that time.“

In his term, he has lead work on Archives’ moves to increasing digital access to records, and advanced plans for the new heritage building for the archives in central Wellington. 

He wrote: “Some of the quieter moments have been the most enjoyable; particularly meeting researchers and historians around the country, and hearing what gets them fired up, from family history to our nation’s defining moments.”

He is stepping down at the end of October and will be replaced by Chief Data Officer for the New Zealand Transport Agency, Stephen Clarke. who, in 2012, was recipient of the J. Eddis Linton Award for Most Outstanding Individual.