New Zealand's Archive of Film, Television and Sound, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision is currently considering a proposal to close its offices in Auckland and Christchurch and centralise all its activity in the Wellington region. This includes moving the sound collection, (the former Radio New Zealand Sound Archives) from Christchurch to the TVNZ Archives site at Avalon in the Hutt Valley. This would see the loss of seven staff roles in Christchurch and three in Auckland, and potentially the loss of all senior sound archives staff who have over 50 years' combined institutional knowledge of this national treasure which has been based in the South Island since the 1950s.
The Sound Archives are home to the voices of our past – Aunt Daisy, Sir Apirana Ngata, Selwyn Toogood, the Māori Battalion – historic voices and events captured on radio form part of Aotearoa New Zealand's collective memory.
The proposal raises a number of concerns, especially as it appears to be proceeding without professional risk analysis or adequate input from the wider cultural heritage sector.
- The proposal breaks commitments made in 2012 by Radio New Zealand and the then Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage, Chris Finlayson, not to use the earthquakes as an excuse to take heritage out of Christchurch.
- Since joining NTS&V the Sound collections (RNZ Sound Archives/Ngā Taonga Kōrero) have been neglected and there is a lack of transparency around funding that was formerly ring-fenced for the Sound collections.
- There is a potential loss of Ngā Taonga Kōrero’s close connections and trust of iwi radio stations and other donors.
- This rushed proposal could result in a disastrous loss of all the institutional knowledge of the Sound collections in Christchurch and in Auckland, due to staff not wishing to live in Wellington, an area of increased seismic actively.
Sound Archives was founded in 1956 in Timaru by the New Zealand Broadcasting Service. The first professional archivist was not employed until 1996. The first full-time cataloguer was hired in 2007. The collections are imperfect in so many ways. Sound archives are often fragile and incomplete and the finding aids are also far from systematic or comprehensive. While parts of the collection are relatively orderly, other parts are almost impenetrable without the institutional knowledge of experienced staff. The Ngā Taonga Kōrero (NTK) collection in Auckland grew out of Radio New Zealand's Te Irirangi o Aotearoa collection and the growing network of iwi broadcasting in the 1980s and 1990s: Te Whakaruruhau o Nga Reo Irirangi Māori.
The underlying logic of the proposal is simple: we need to save money therefore send everything to the Wellington region. Unfortunately, this kind of short-termism is the antithesis of archival best practice.
This effectively puts all New Zealand's media treasures into one regional basket. With the challenges of climate change and the apparent increased level of seismic actively in the Wellington region this is a high-risk strategy.
The implications of climate change are massive. The Avalon archive is in an area easily cut off by floods or storm surge events. There is a lack of alternative routes if flooding or large landslips occur. While the Avalon archive is a modern design, if staff cannot access it, urgently needed archival material could be unavailable for weeks or months.
In the 2011 Christchurch quake, the RNZ Sound Archive found itself inside the CBD no-go cordon, located as it was in Radio New Zealand House on Chester Street West. Eventually staff were permitted to enter and recover the entire collection to its current 'temporary' home in Cashel Street. The relocation of nearly 90,000 fragile discs, tapes, CDs and
cassettes was a massive task, but the move was a success and the Christchurch staff were internationally recognised for the way in which this was carried out.
The 'temporary' home is certainly not ideal, but it is safe and has allowed work to continue on collecting and digitising our national audio treasures for the past four years. Canterbury has lost so much of its cultural heritage, so the hope was that a new, permanent Christchurch home would be found for the Sound Archives to guarantee its future and continue its 60 year presence in the South Island. It might be one-eyed, but the question has to be asked, Why should Christchurch lose yet another national treasure to help pay for earthquake strengthening for a building in Taranaki Street, Wellington?
Our quake experience adds weight to the concern that if there is a sizeable quake in Wellington, the CBD there will be closed for months. Landslips and subsidence of the Hutt motorway may cut off the Hutt Valley for a similar period. From a seasoned Christchurch perspective, a big quake in Wellington would be far more destructive and disruptive than the Canterbury earthquakes and the region's geographical challenges mean recovery could take even longer.
While it may be uncomfortable for many Wellingtonians to hear this – despite all the warning signs, we are seeing an alarming lack of earthquake preparedness in Wellington and other parts of New Zealand
Building a robust and sustainable organisations starts with appropriate decision making, where people have a say in their own future and their immediate living and working environment. We certainly hope management and the board of trustees address the issue of sustainability and bring it to bear in their planning.
The risks of putting all the nation’s audio-visual archives within the Wellington region needs independent professional analysis. Recent tectonic and weather events have once again called into question the wisdom of centralising so much of New Zealand's government infrastructure and cultural assets in one vulnerable region.
Change proposals, original dates, new dates
Proposal announced and consultation period begins 7/11/16 (no change)
Interim update meeting (if applicable) 16/11/16 (21/11/16)
Consultation closes Midday 23/11/16 (Midday 29/11/16
Consideration of all feedback 24/11/16 to 2/11/16 (29/11/16 - 7/12/16)
Final decision announced 5/12/16 (8/12/16)
Consult on position descriptions for new roles 5/12/16 to 17/12/16 (8/12/16 to 17/12/16)
Final position descriptions and selection criteria for roles available 23/12/16 (no change)
Proposed implementation activities
New structure implemented 01/12/17 (no change)
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Some interesting context from an email in response to this post:
The short answer is because the former Film Archive CEO Frank Stark sold Chris Finlayson on the concept (although my guess is that Frank himself is most unhappy with this latest turn of events). I did warn five years ago that this was not a good idea.
Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report
This is crazy. I totally agree that putting all eggs in the Wellington basket for precious taonga is very unwise. The building holding the archives might hold up in a huge earthquake but the land beneath and around can do crazy things that make the building inaccessible and the systems that maintain it unworkable. If anything more taonga should be moved out of Wellington to diverse locations. It' s also shocking to read that there is a purpose built home for Sound Archives under construction in Christchurch that cannot be afforded. I guess it would be wishful thinking that the government stepped in to rescue this whole ill thought out venture before it is too late. I don't like to think doomy thoughts of my old home town Wellington but people need to remember that it was 5 months after the first earthquake that the killer quake struck Christchurch. People should be as prepared as they possibly can be. Wellington has not necessarily dodged the bullet.
Christchurch • Since Nov 2010 • 20 posts Report
"could result in a disastrous loss of all the institutional knowledge of the Sound collections in Christchurch and in Auckland" - no 'could' about it. The very staff that embody institutional knowledge are those long-termers with deeper local roots. I expect many such will scorn a move to Wellington not because of earthquakes or even over-priced housing but simply because they've long since chosen to create their lives elsewhere.
Anecdata: I worked for a firm in London which had offices by Marylebone and Waterloo, i.e. a bit north and just south of the river. Marylebone office closed in favour of expanded Waterloo site, whereupon a number of key "institutional knowledge" staff departed, choosing "Door C" when faced with the prospect of either an even-crappier commute or the disruption of moving house.
Germany • Since May 2012 • 12 posts Report
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The perils of putting your archives in one place... if the building collapses then it's all gone. It happened in Cologne and they didn't even have an earthquake: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/mar/27/germany-cologne
Auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 200 posts Report
And while we are on the subject, whatever happened to:
NZ's aerial mapping heritage, where the original negatives/plates were owned by NZ Aerial Mapping which went bust a couple of years ago making it exceedingly difficult to access the images not already in ATL, and horrendoosly expensive for anyone trying to get scans of prints out of Opus or other local surveyors which happened to have copies of prints covering their areas ($160 for access to a single contact print with a magnifying glass for a few minutes in my local surveyors office)?
LINZ's pre-300,000 survey plan scanning archive done in the late 90s/early 2000s at exceedingly poor quality, unsearchable except by plan number (no metadata etc), and no only accessible via private title search agents at a minumimum of $15 a plan, or expensive 3rd party property information services costing thousands?
Fairfax's photo archive that went to the US for scanning?
Whangarei • Since Oct 2008 • 20 posts Report
The Fairfax archives is an appalling story, but aerial mapping as well? Wow.
One thing the US does well is the fact that all govt archives are public domain. Obviously it doesn't solve the issue of improper archiving, but because the information is freely accessible, and heavily used in all manner of applications, the public interest aspect of storing it properly is self-evident.
The fact that a private organisation is responsible for this, and a purpose-built building can't be funded is unbelievable.
I'm afraid the argument about "increased seismic activity" in Wellington is a bit rich, coming from Christchurch. I think the lesson is that severe earthquakes can pop up almost anywhere (or volcanos in Auckland), so geographically-dispersed collections makes good sense, and standards for any building storing such collections must include planning for "1000 year" quakes or other natural phenomena. Of course it needs to be properly funded, hah.
As for the state of the archive premises now, how is the "temporary accommodation"? Good on you for ringing the alarm bell now - hopefully this will stir up some action.
Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report
Are these consultation and implementation dates correct ?
- this being the 7/12/16, it appears the final decision is tomorrow!
....or am I being thick here?
Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report
Thanks for posting this, Aunt Daisy (and good to hear you're still alive and kicking).
TracyMac, what is the Fairfax archives story? Has someone written about that in detail? It'd be good to gather together these pieces of our broken media and image archive story.
Christchurch • Since Mar 2007 • 10 posts Report
Rich of Observationz,
Surely they should digitize the media and put it on two or three servers in different countries?
(Audio magtape might be good for thirty years. CDs, nobody really knows, and it depends on whether they're pressed or written, and using what media and technology: http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2014/08/18/340716269/how-long-do-cds-last-it-depends-but-definitely-not-forever).
And yes, rotating media or SSDs also have a life, but a properly set up online archive gets continually checked and errors corrected/devices replaced as they error and fail.
Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report
Astro Puss, in reply to
Yes we learn our fate late tomorrow.
Wellington • Since Nov 2015 • 5 posts Report
It could be that arguments based on the geographical location of post-digitisation carriers are too easily brushed aside by the managerial classes. Some other useful questions of the proponents might include:
• What progress has been made on the digitisation and on-line access targets laid out at the merger?
• What other options for Christchurch housing have been examined?
• How will the format-specific technical expertise and knowledge of staff in Christchurch and Auckland be replicated under the proposed arrangements?
• What does RNZ think?
• What do Māori broadcasters (especially iwi radio stations) think?
• What has caused NTSV to go from an operating surplus of $1.144,452, net capital assets of $6,285,144 and working capital of $853,219 at June 2015 (source NSTV Annual Report 2014-15) to a state where it apparently cannot afford to maintain Christchurch and Auckland premises?
• How many HR staff does it take to turn off the lights?
Since Dec 2016 • 1 posts Report
Dear Aunt Daisy
Can't we just store all this archive stuff in your back passage?
(but out of the sun, naturally)
Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report
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Aunt Dsisy wishes to correct some of the information about the history of NTK:
I'll update the post when I get a moment.
Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report
To those declaiming from overseas about the unlikelihood of Chch staff not wanting to move to Wellington: it is a valid and very real consideration. It takes experiencing MM9 shaking and 14,000 other earthquakes to have any conception of that.
The proposed Wellington building sits within a few hundred metres of the Wellington fault and near the river. It is a high-hazard risk.
The present Christchurch building is low-rise, of a type not especially risky – low-rise tilt-slabs did not collapse.
@Ian Dalziel: Snap.
Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2899 posts Report
Really upset to hear this. I have worked extensively with the Mobile Unit recordings which are part of the Sound Archives here in Christchurch. These are recordings made on acetate disks (fragile and highly flammable) which were recorded with equipment in vans which came back from recording troops overseas in WW2. Some bright spark had the brilliant idea to send the vans around the country, initially to record the great musical talent in the provinces. Except there wasn't any talent of course, but they found that recordings of old time reminiscences they also did were very popular.
Over the period of 1946-1948 the vans travelled around the Coromandel, Waikato, Taranaki and Otago regions. Until a National government stopped the funding for the project. These recordings, of people born from the 1860s onwards, formed the basis of a world renowned research project The Origins of New Zealand English (ONZE) - the first time the development of a variety of a language has been able to be charted.
The vans also recorded some Māori elders, and these recordings formed the basis of a project charting the changes in the pronunciation of the Māori language over 150 years (the MAONZE project).
Interestingly, the original Sound Archives collection, as you note, was housed in Timaru, above a petrol station (imagine the explosion if that had gone up - it would have been nuclear!). The collection was moved to Kent House in Durham Street, Christchurch at some point, but of course, that building had some earthquake risk. So the collection has had an eventful life. The original collection was gathered together by a technician who travelled around the radio stations during the 70s I think, gathering up as much of the old material as possible. There wasn't many recordings on tape as the tape was usually reused (the tape being regarded as more valuable than the sounds on it).
So a great history and a great treasure. It'd be such a shame for the archives to be moved - and would have to be done with extreme care due to the fragility of the material (some of those acetate disks have glass as the base material under the acetate). It would cost a fortune to move and pretty treacherous considering the current road route to Picton.
Ōtautahi • Since Oct 2010 • 43 posts Report
Sacha, in reply to
an enduring NZ motto
Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report
Thank you Aunt Daisy for this post. This seems to have been happening below the radar even of those who are regular users of the archives. There was a brief news item on Morning Report this morning
Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report
Dear Aunt Daisy,
I fondly Googled “Aunt Daisy” yesterday thinking I would take a stroll down memory lane and was instead very surprised to discover the turmoil that has engulfed our national audiovisual archive (formerly RNZ Sound Archives).
Then to my shock I discovered a large bundle of correspondence that has recently been released via an Official Information Act (OIA) request to Archives NZ in relation to Nga Taonga’s recent failed accommodation project with DIA/Archives NZ (link at bottom of post).
The co-location project, which I believe began in 2014, would have seen the two archives move into a new state-of-the-art, purpose built facility in Wigram, Christchurch. The project is funded in part through the government’s Future Investment Fund.
“The Archives project is good news for the people of Christchurch and a clear signal of the Government’s intent to keep the Christchurch rebuild on-track,” Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne said in a May 2015 press release.
But given that this relocation project went so OFF-track recently with Nga Taonga pulling out, I’m seeking reassurance, Aunt Daisy, that Nga Taonga’s new plan of moving the entire historic and fragile Sound Archives collection from both Auckland and Christchurch locations to Wellington has been well thought through.
For example, the Wigram project ran for two years (late 2014-2016), but it appears from the recently released documents that Nga Taonga management allegedly began "pleading poverty" only 10 days [OIA pdf-3, p.85, 12/9/16] before they pulled the plug on the project on the 21 September 2016 [OIA pdf-3, p.86]. (It’s interesting to note that Nga Taonga gets around $6.5 million dollars of taxpayers money per year).
I read in the same document that Nga Taonga management allegedly agreed "that the per sqm [square metre] rate was within the ballpark of what they had been lead to expect." I also know that years ago the funding for Sound Archives was ring-fenced: take a look at the old RNZ annual reports, and in the 2013/2014 Nga Taonga annual report you’ll see there was $1 million allotted for “radio” by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. But not anymore. (And I believe Sound Archives has a very small staff – around seven employees).
Reading the OIA documents I see that over the last two years Nga Taonga did get into the nitty-gritty of designing the Wigram space with very specific office, vault and studio requirements, and actually asked Archives NZ in August 2015 for more vault room (disadvantaging other collecting institutions who wanted to be part of the Archives NZ development). So I just can’t understand why the financial side of the collaboration subsequently came as such a surprise and shock to Nga Taonga management.
Interestingly when you look back through the Nga Taonga Board of Trustees reports, it appears the Board was exploring accommodation options from late 2015. And in July 2016 they were presented with a “discussion paper” from an external consultant which resulted in the Board recognizing “that accommodation is a pan-organisational issue, rather than just Wellington, with impacts on both Christchurch and Auckland, and a long-term strategic, reputational and relationship issue.”
When I read some of the OIA documents I do wonder about the “reputational” and “relationship” aspects of this failed project. For example, when the project was beginning to come off-the-tracks at the end of August 2016:
Email from Chris [last name redacted]: “At this stage of the game it could seem as if we are being held over a barrel, which does not seem to fit with the collaborative spirit we were hoping for. They [Nga Taonga] were the ones who decided to stay only for 10 years, so I don’t think they can complain about ‘security of tenure’. I don’t know whether they are looking for a cheaper deal, or an‘out’.” [OIA pdf-3, p.67, 26/8/16]
Email from [name redacted], Senior Project Manager: “Thank you all for completing your design by the due date, which is gratefully appreciated. I have since received a call [that Nga Taonga] have pulled out, leaving DIA as the sole occupants of the building. There was a lot of effort put into the design to accommodate [Nga Taonga] which does have a cost implication.” [OIA pdf-3, p.86, 21/9/16]
However just a month earlier Nga Taonga’s Chief Executive, allegedly advised the Manager, Strategy and Operational Services at Archives NZ “that [Archives NZ] should still consider [Nga Taonga] in [on the project] and proceed on that basis for now.” This was noted in an email by the Manager recounting the meeting [OIA pdf-3, p.46, 2/8/16]
The Manager also noted “Worryingly [the Chief Executive] advised that the political pressure to have their sound archives in Christchurch has been removed so they are not wedded to keeping what is in Christchurch in that region.”
This alleged sentiment expressed privately by the Chief Executive runs counter to Nga Taonga’s Strategic Plan (2016-2024) released to the public 3-weeks earlier (12/7/16) which states “We are committed to remaining in Christchurch as part of the Canterbury recovery. As a result, we have a strong focus on ensuring that we can safely house our staff and our collections, in fit-for-purpose accommodation that represents good value for money”. [Strategic Plan 2016-2024, p.8]
An accompanying document released at the same time notes the Minister’s expectations for “co-location with Archives NZ in Christchurch”. [Four Year Plan 2016-2020, p.8]
I am also disturbed, Aunt Daisy, that relocating the Sound Archives collection out of Christchurch was being freely discussed with external parties well before Nga Taonga staff were presented on 7 November 2016 with a major organisational restructuring proposal (as noted on the Public Address website). The restructuring proposal would see the closure of the Auckland and Christchurch sites and see all sound collections moved to the Wellington region.
Nga Taonga’s Chief Executive was already flagging at the end of September to Archives NZ “significant implications for our Christchurch based employees” as a result of Nga Taonga withdrawing from the Wigram project [OIA pdf-3, p.98, 30/9/16].
Most of the restructuring proposal was eventually confirmed on 8 December 2016 and the historic sound collections will now be moved to the Wellington region.
Aunt Daisy, I don’t understand why the Ministry for Culture and Heritage - as principal funder of Nga Taonga - and Minister Maggie Barry aren’t publicly seeking answers and assurances from the management and Board of Nga Taonga regarding the plan to remove the sound collections from Christchurch and Auckland.
Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne should also be asking whether the new Archives NZ facility in Wigram is now in jeopardy following the snap withdrawal of Nga Taonga (and with it, the ongoing money it would have contributed to the project).
Finally, I would like to leave you with another quote from Nga Taonga’s glossy Four Year Plan:
“We [Nga Taonga] have an enormous ability – even a responsibility – to connect people with each other and with their taonga. This can only happen when we are open, transparent, and treat taonga and people with dignity, respect and generosity. We build and nurture relationships, enhancing the mana of all. Through collaboration, sharing our knowledge and expertise, and embracing feedback and criticism as an opportunity to become even better, we become a trusted and valued partner.” [Four Year Plan 2016-2020, p.5]
I look forward to hearing your thoughts,
OIA request (and documents) - https://fyi.org.nz/request/4909-archival-storage-facility-in-wigram
Public Address: http://publicaddress.net/access/a-letter-from-aunt-daisy-about-your-archives/
Archives NZ to rebuild in Christchurch - http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1505/S00398/archives-new-zealand-to-rebuild-christchurch-facility.htm
Nga Taonga corporate publications: http://www.ngataonga.org.nz/about/corporate-information
Nga Taonga Board reports: http://www.ngataonga.org.nz/about/governance/board-reports
RNZ corporate publications: http://www.radionz.co.nz/about/documents
Since Dec 2016 • 3 posts Report
Hilary Stace, in reply to
And what about the implications on all this of the earthquake damaged Archives NZ building in Wellington?
Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report
So word around town is that the Sound Archive is currently being decimated by Nga Taonga's management...multiple people have left through redundancy or just being disestablished and not applying for new roles.. There goes the institutional knowledge of what's in the collection and where it came from...
Apparently radio broadcasts haven't been accessioned since December (the last RNZ broadcast I could find in their online catalog was 30/9/16)... Luckily nothing has really happened over the last couple of months that's been newsworthy or will be wanted in 50 years time.
And in other news, a couple of OIA requests have been answered by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.. It appears MCH don't (and haven't requested) a list of the 20,000 titles that Nga Taonga was supposed to be digitizing and making available to the public online (thanks to a cash injection by Minister Craig Foss back in 2014) ..So even though there's a clause in the Memorandum of Understanding with MCH that states 3,000 TVNZ titles should be on the internet by now, no one in authority seems to be asking: what are the titles and where are they available online...
Luckily Nga Taonga's MoU with the Ministry expires on 30 June this year .. SO now is a good time for those of us who are concerned about preservation and access to our audiovisual heritage to start asking Minister Maggie Barry some questions
Since Dec 2016 • 3 posts Report
Ian Dalziel, in reply to
The rot started years ago - when they first started putting clueless managers in charge, and some staff there asked questions, but nobody stood up for them and they were forced out - this is where that leads!
Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report
And just saw this reponse to a recent OIA request:
From my reading of the documents, The License to Occupy, read in conjunction with the Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and Nga Taonga defines the “Archive Collection” held at the Avalon facility as the Television New Zealand Archive.
It does not identify other collections held by Nga Taonga, namely the 50,000+ physical items in the Sound Archives collection currently in Christchurch nor the Film Archive collections in Wellington.
Additionally the “Memorandum of Understanding – Access to the TVNZ Archive Collection” between the Ministry and DIA, states that DIA grants access to the Avalon facility to the Ministry [who in turn grants it to Nga Taonga] to preserve and manage the [TVNZ] Archive Collection, and that the fixtures and equipment at Avalon are to be used in connection with reasonable use of the [TVNZ] Archive Collection, again with no mention of using the facilities for housing or working on other collections.
I do not see any requests from Nga Taonga to the Ministry or DIA in the released documents to use the Avalon facility for the permanent housing of non-TVNZ collections, so this confirms to me that Nga Taonga HAS NOT requested, nor been given consent from the Ministry or DIA to permanently use the Avalon facility for non TVNZ Archive related activities.
I also note that in the License to Occupy, Nga Taonga – as Archive Manager – may only undertake “minor activities” (such as painting a wall) without the consent of DIA.
The absence of any requests from Nga Taonga in the released OIA documents says to me that the Ministry and DIA are completely unaware of Nga Taonga’s plan to relocate thousands of physical non TVNZ items from Christchurch and Auckland to the Avalon facility, that you have no knowledge of the relocation of staff to Avalon (to work on non TVNZ material) and that you have no knowledge of the proposed construction of new spaces at the Avalon facility to undertake non TVNZ activities.
Since Dec 2016 • 3 posts Report