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It's your right to request copies of any personal information government agencies hold about you. The law that protects this right is the Privacy Act 2020.

Learn more about the Privacy Act and your rights - privacy.org.nz

Records this guide covers

This guide explains how to request the main types of record you may need:

  • to understand more about your past

  • to prove you went to a certain school

  • if you were adopted, fostered or stayed in a state care home

  • as evidence of your medical, criminal or financial history

  • to make a claim through the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in State Care.

Divorce files and immigration records

We have guides to help you find your divorce files or immigration records. This guide is about finding other types of personal record.

Learn how to find your divorce file

Read our guide to finding your immigration records

How to access your records

To get copies of your personal records, you need tomake a request to the agency that controls them – even if the records have been transferred to us.

This is because personal records are restricted to protect people’s privacy. Without written permission from the controlling agency, we can’t usually give details about:

  • whether we have a record about a specific person

  • what personal records contain.

Agency contact details

You can find contact details on this page for agencies that may be able to give you:

  • your personal records

  • permission to access your records, if they have been transferred to us.

Get help finding the right agency 

We can help if you’re not sure which agency to contact about your records. 

Fill in our form to ask an archivist about personal records 

Costs 

Government agencies will provide most personal records for free.  The only exception is criminal records. It's free to get a copy of your own criminal record, but you'll need to pay a fee to request someone else's criminal record. 

Advice for making a request 

  • You may need to contact more than one agency to get all the records you need. 

  • You’ll usually need to show ID, like a passport or New Zealand driver’s license. It’s a good idea to have this ready when you make your request. 

  • Give the agency as much information you can – for example, the dates you lived at a particular care home, or the type of record you’re looking for.  

Requesting information about other people 

If you’re asking for information about someone else, like a member of your whānau, you’ll need to meet extra requirements. The agency will talk to you about these when you make your request. 

What to expect after you’ve made a request 

Response times 

  • Most agencies take up to 20 working days to respond to personal information requests – though some will be faster than this. 

  • Courts may take longer than 20 working days, as their records need to be reviewed by a judge. 

Information about other people 

Personal information about other people may be blanked out from your records.  

Missing and incomplete records 

Sometimes agencies may have patchy records about you. This can be because records were: 

  • not kept 

  • destroyed by past recordkeepers 

  • lost. 

Help and support 

Requesting personal records can be hard, and the information these records contain is sometimes upsetting. Make sure you get help if you need it. 

Free phone support services 

Find a list of services that offer free support and counselling over the phone at the Mental Health Foundation website. 

Find phone support services – mentalhealth.org.nz 

Help for survivors of abuse in state care  

You’ll be offered support and counselling if you’re making a claim as part of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in State Care.  

Learn what support you can get – abuseincare.org.nz 

Make a complaint about your request 

Complain to the agency first 

If you’re unhappy with the way an agency responds to your request, contact the agency itself first. 

Contact the Privacy Commissioner or Ombudsman if: 

  • the agency does not respond to your complaint within 30 days 

  • you’re not satisfied with the agency’s response to your complaint. 

The best organisation to contact depends on what your complaint is about. 

  • Contact the Privacy Commissioner if you think the agency has interfered with your privacy. 

  • Contact the Ombudsman if you feel the agency has treated you unfairly. 

Privacy Commissioner 

Complain to the Privacy Commissioner online.  

Make a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner online – privacy.org.nz

Ombudsman 

Complain to the Ombudsman online.

Complain to the Ombudsman – ombudsman.parliament.nz 

Agency complaints 

Oranga Tamariki 

Make a complaint to Oranga Tamariki – orangatamariki.govt.nz 

Ministry of Education 

Make a complaint to the Ministry of Education – education.govt.nz 

District Health Boards 

Find out how to make a complaint on the District Health Board’s website 

Get contact details for all District Health Boards – health.govt.nz 

Ministry of Justice 

Make a complaint to the Ministry of Justice – justice.govt.nz 

Ministry of Social Development (MSD) 

Make a complaint to MSD – msd.govt.nz 

Police 

Make a complaint to the Police 


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