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Historical legislation digitisation programme

The PCO has completed the current programme of providing historical New Zealand Statutes, from 1841 to 2007, including the 1908 Consolidation, in an electronic format (PDF). The New Zealand Acts 1841–2007 As-Enacted Collection is hosted by NZLII, the New Zealand Legal Information Institute, and it also includes the 1908 Consolidation.

Updated 2016—See also:


In 2008 the Law Commission, in conjunction with the PCO, published "Presentation of New Zealand Statute Law", a report that identified the need to preserve access to historical statutes. Repealed Acts are consulted by the legal profession, to establish what the law was at a particular time; by historians and researchers, since legislation is part of our social history. But access to older statutes is problematic. Library collections are often incomplete, and some volumes may be damaged or fragile. Online, the gaps are much larger. The PCO's New Zealand Legislation website provides Acts that go back as far as 1275, but its collection of repealed Acts only includes Acts that were repealed after August 2007. The Knowledge Basket holds Acts that were repealed from 1987 to 2007 (and the shattering statutes, preserved by the PCO). Commercial publishers provide repealed legislation for a fee.

The "Government Response to Reports of the Law Commission: Presentation of New Zealand Statute Law and Review of the Statutes Drafting and Compilation Act 1920" states as follows:

10. The repealed statutes are an important component of New Zealand's history and are used in legal argument in court and before the Waitangi Tribunal. PCO has recently scanned, into PDF format, the most vulnerable statute books of the 19th century, the so-called "shattering statutes" of 1888–1894 (of which 6 public, 42 local and 4 private Acts are still in force). These statutes, which in hard copy extend over 2976 pages, can now be consulted on the Internet, on a website separate from the New Zealand Legislation website.

11. The Government notes that there are a number of options for implementing the Law Commission's recommendations, either in whole or in part, and that some options are more costly than others.

12. The Government agrees that all of the repealed statutes should be preserved in electronic format, and authorises PCO to seek funding for a project that will allow PCO to outsource conversion and digitisation into PDF format, and to host the content on a website that is linked to the New Zealand Legislation website.

The PCO has carried out the historical legislation digitisation project within its existing resources. Consequently, given the need to simplify the manipulation of the legislation involved in the digitisation project, the resulting collection includes all historical Acts in their original form (as enacted), not just the Acts that have been repealed. It also includes the shattering statutes (already digitised).

Outline of programme

Stage one: Acquiring a complete collection of volumes suitable for scanning. No one institution has a complete "clean" set (not annotated), so we have assembled volumes from various sources. The National Library has assisted with volumes for many of the years. Where clean volumes are not available, we have used annotated volumes.

Stage two: Dismantling, scanning, and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) processing of the volumes. OCR software permits the output to be searched. Given the need to deliver this project within existing resources and following the precedent set in other jurisdictions, the OCR output has not be checked or corrected. The quality of the final scanned text depends on how clean the original volumes were.

Stage three: Making the collection available online. We have added metadata to identify title and date. The output is PDF facsimiles with searchable metadata and content.


Work started in March 2010 and was completed in September 2010, more than two years ahead of the timetable.

Our long-term objective is to produce XML documents that will be integrated into the New Zealand Legislation website. A pilot project, begun in September 2011, showed that it would be difficult to carry out the conversion to sufficient accuracy at acceptable cost, and in March 2012 we decided not to progress further. The project may be revisited at some stage in the future.

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