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Happy Anniversary New Zealand Hansard: Celebrating 150 Years of Openness and Transparency

This month New Zealand celebrates 150 years of government openness and transparency. It was one of the first countries to record and publish independent transcripts of the speeches and debates in its Parliament. The debates of the New Zealand Parliament were first officially transcribed on July 9, 1867. The transcripts were bound into volumes called “Hansard,” after Thomas Curson Hansard (1776-1833) who was the first official printer to the UK Parliament at Westminster. New Zealand was a pioneer of the independent transcription of representative bodies of government: It wasn’t until six years later that the U.S. Congress established the Congressional Record in 1873, which was published by the Government Printing House and staffed by Official Reporters of Debates; and it was 42 years before the UK Parliament established an independent Hansard team in 1909.

Preface to the Parliamentary Debates for New Zealand’s first Parliament, 1854.


Prior to the official Hansard transcriptions, newspaper reporters captured some of the debates in New Zealand’s Parliament beginning with the first Parliament in 1854. Roughly twenty years later, Maurice Fitzgerald compiled what he could scrape together from newspaper accounts and drafts of speeches submitted from still-living members, into five bound volumes representing New Zealand’s Parliamentary debates before Hansard was introduced. You can read Fitzgerald’s description of his editorial process in his Preface to the Parliamentary Debates of the First Parliament published in 1885. Sadly, Fitzgerald died a year later, at the age of 25, before all five of his compiled volumes were published.

Given our current contentious political and media environment, it is easy to see the importance of unbiased and independent transcriptions of the goings-on in legislative bodies. If we imagine the only historical record of today’s Congress or Parliament being compiled 20 years after the fact from news accounts and edited proofs provided by the politicians themselves, we immediately understand the necessity of Hansard (and the Congressional Record in the U.S.) to history, transparency, open government, and democracy itself.

Completing Hansard’s Digital Record

To help celebrate Hansard’s 150th anniversary, the Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives (New Zealand Parliament’s office responsible for producing Hansard) planned to provide a complete digital record of Hansard online. They believed they might have to digitize the volumes themselves, but then discovered that the majority of Hansard volumes had already been digitized from University of California and other research libraries by the Google Books Library Project and were in the HathiTrust Digital Library. However, there were a handful of Hansard volumes missing from the HathiTrust collection, and volumes published after 1922 had restricted (search-only) access due to copyright considerations, and were not available for full view access.

Peter Riches from the Office of the Clerk of the House contacted the Mass Digitization Team at CDL to ask if we could help complete Hansard’s digital record. He provided the missing volume numbers and years, and the Office of the Clerk even offered to donate the volumes for digitization. First, we got in touch with Google Project teams at UC campuses that held the physical volumes in their collections to see if they could include the missing volumes with their shipments of books to be scanned by Google. UC’s Google Project teams at SRLF and UCLA sent the missing volumes to be scanned.

Opening Hansard for Full View Access

Next, we wanted to get the Hansard volumes opened for full view access on HathiTrust. By New Zealand law Hansard is in the public domain, but HathiTrust required legal verification to open them. We worked with Peter Riches to get a HathiTrust Permissions Agreement signed and submitted to HathiTrust. Once this was done, the support team at HathiTrust opened the volumes for full view access.

Thank you!

Thanks to everyone at the New Zealand Parliament, HathiTrust, the Google Books Library Project, the University of California Google Project Teams (including UC Santa Cruz, UCLA, the Northern Regional Library Facility [NRLF], and Southern Regional Library Facility [SRLF]), and the HathiTrust teams at University of Illinois, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, and Harvard University who helped to complete Hansard’s digital record and make it available for full view public access!

Note to Rights Holders

If you work with an UC academic department, government agency, or non-profit organization that owns the rights to volumes on HathiTrust that you would like to see opened for full view public access, please contact CDL’s Mass Digitization team.

Historical Hansard (New Zealand Parliament website)

For the Record: 150 Years of Hansard (New Zealand Parliament website)

‘For the record’: Hansard celebrates 150 years by digitising every word spoken in the House (New Zealand Harold, July 4, 2017)

HathiTrust Collection: New Zealand Parliamentary Debates (Hansard)

Fully searchable Hansard now available (New Zealand Law Society, July 6, 2017)

Wikipedia: Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) links to all NZ Hansard volumes