The Official Information Act of 1982 requires that the government increase the availability of official information and provide each person with proper access to it. The 1993 Human Rights Act requires non-discrimination in access to public places and facilities (e.g. government websites) and in the provision of public goods and services. Therefore, the provision of government information and services via websites is no different from the government in the physical world. Noncompliant websites may put agencies in breach of the spirit of these Acts.
Accordingly, the New Zealand Web Guidelines set minimum standards for website technology, design, and content to ensure access to public sector websites. These guidelines are focused around three things – accessibility, public service values, and compliance with the law and government policy. They apply to all public service and non-public service departments.
New Zealand began to address web accessibility problems in 2000, when the Government Information Systems Managers Forum (GOVIS) adapted the United Kingdom Government’s Web Guidelines. The UK guidelines were based on international best practice standards developed through the Web Accessibility Initiative of the W3C. In November 2000, GOVIS passed a draft of the New Zealand Guidelines to the States Services Commission (SSC) to refine and release for consultation with local and central governments, voluntary organizations, interested individuals, and the web design industry. The State Services Commission finalized and published the Guidelines in 2001. The final document was released to agencies in January 2003.
Currently, the agencies required to adopt the Guidelines will be responsible for conducting self-audits of compliance. These agencies are required to demonstrate compliance with at least Version 2.1 of the Guidelines to the SSC by January 1, 2006, according to assessment criteria and methodologies that the SSC will accredit and/or provide by June 30, 2004.