New Zealand's National Archives: an analysis of machinery of government reform and resistance, 1994-1999.
This thesis analyses the impact of the1990s new public management reforms in New
Zealand on one particular agency, the National Archives. It explores the unique
combination of features that enabled this small low-profile agency and its stakeholders to
stymie some of the machinery of government reforms that were proposed.
This thesis is a qualitative study that draws on material from primary and secondary
sources, with a heavy reliance on official documents. It chronicles the lack of value
placed on the archives’ administrative, constitutional and heritage functions by successive
politicians and senior public servants. The thesis compares the values of the reformers,
who had interests that were not specific to the Archives, and the values of the archiving
professionals and their stakeholders, whose perspective was agency and policy-specific.
The main reform time periods are 1994-2001, and 2005. While the clash between the two
sets of values during this time is analysed chronologically, the thesis provides historical
background prior to the reform period. The perspectives of various actors are told in their
own words, where possible.
This study illustrates the tensions between the need to co-ordinate the wider public sector
with the peculiarities of a specific policy area. It also demonstrates the tensions between
the highly theoretical and ideological nature of the public sector management reforms in
New Zealand from the mid-1980s, and the values of one group of professionals that were
not compatible with these reforms. While the policies of the reformers evolved over
time, the values of the archivists were more static. These static values contributed to
consistency in their preferred model of organisational design and placement within the
Ironically the outdated legislation archivists complained about for decades and low
political priority the policy area received, bestowed crucial protection against public
sector management reforms that were contrary to international archival trends. Following
a change in political leadership, the stable of professional values of the archive were
adopted, removing archives from the policy change agenda.