25 December 2007

New Zealand: Vital records law

Many countries attempt to limit access to vital records (birth, marriage, death, as well as census records) for various reasons. Genealogists, family historians and their organizations are involved in the fight to maintain access at fair levels.

New Zealand was the latest country to attempt to restrict access; fortunately, the law was amended.

Member societies of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) learn about proposed laws and amendments from Jan Meisels Allen of California, who chairs the IAJGS's Public Records Access Monitoring Committee.

In April, Allen notified IAJGS members about pending New Zealand legislation which would impose long wait times for people (other than a specific record's subject) to access birth, marriage and death records. This would have impacted genealogists.

Allen was happy to report recently that the New Zealand Parliament amended the bill to provide that individuals will be able to access their own records and those of their immediate family, and can authorize others to research their records (such as fmaily historians and professional genealogists). Other legal reasons will be permitted.

Additionally, historic records (births over 100 years old, stillbirths over 50 years old, marriages and civil unions over 80 years ago, name changes for those born outside of New Zealand over 100 years ago and deaths over 50 years ago) may be Internet-accessible for a fee. Internet record accessibility is new for the country.

Index information, however, that can identify an individual is not permitted to be posted on the Internet, with certain exceptions.

Allen writes that the 76-page bill may be read here, and that the pages of most genealogical interest are sections 73, 74, 78F and 78G.

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