Council websites are key information sites for ratepayers and are increasingly the sites of much local government business. Because Council business is documented and performed on your website, it is important to make sure that you are making and keeping records of this business.

The purpose of this guidance is to explain what types of records need to be kept to meet business and accountability requirements.

The bulk of the information on your website should already be captured in your Council’s corporate records system. What is on your website should just be a copy of this information. If the record is already captured in your corporate records system, you do not need to capture a copy of it again or preserve another copy forever in your content management system.

However there are two key recordkeeping requirements that you do need to consider in relation to your website.

Requirement Explanation
Documenting what was on the website when You may need to determine if, for business, reporting or risk management purposes, you need to keep a record of when certain corporate records were made available on your website. You also need to determine whether you need to keep other records of web administration, such as who made the information publicly accessible, when they did this, when the record was removed from the website and under whose authority.
Capturing unique web material Some information will be unique to your website, such as introductory or descriptive information about your local government area and the services Council provides. You do need to determine whether some or all of this needs to be formally captured as a record in your corporate records system.

The rest of this guidance provides specific advice about managing the types of Council information commonly available on local government websites.

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How do I manage information about Council services on our website?

Online information about Council services will tend to either be:

  • introductory or descriptive information about your services, processes or requirements
  • links to formal documents about Council services or requirements, and forms for applications, enrolments or enquiries.

Types of Council services that you may need to keep records about include:

  • planning and development
  • children’s services
  • disability services
  • any other services offered by Council and advertised or provided via its website that you believe need to be documented.

Introductory or descriptive information about your services, processes or requirements

This information will generally be unique to your website. That is, it is unlikely to have been captured as a formal record in your corporate record systems.

Because of the high risk nature of this area of your business, you may decide to save a record of this introductory or descriptive information in your corporate records system. If you do this, you should also save a new record each time this information changes, so that you can always account for your public statements about this key business area.

Links to formal documents about Council services or requirements and forms

Formal documents like these should already be captured into your corporate records system. The formal process for approving such documents should always involve capturing the final, official version in your records system. The version on your website is therefore only a copy and does not need to be captured again in your records system.

However, you should keep a record of when Council documents were published on your website and when they were removed. For accountability purposes, you may also want to record the names and positions of the staff responsible for uploading and removing this content.

If people can submit forms or enquiries online, you need to ensure that these applications or enquiries are captured into your corporate records system and that they are made accessible to the staff who need to process them.

Also, when using forms, make sure that you formally capture each new version of a form and that you record the specific dates that each version of your forms was used or accessible online.

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How do I manage Council minutes and meeting papers on the website?

Making minutes and meeting papers freely available is an important requirement under the Local Government Act 1993.

To document this area of your business you can:

  • ensure the final version of the minutes and meeting papers are captured in your corporate records system. This formal record should already exist in your corporate records system.
  • capture a record of updates to your publications section. Capturing a list of your publicly accessible minutes and meeting papers will provide a record of how you are meeting your s12 obligations under the Local Government Act. You could:
    • capture a copy of the online file list of available council papers each time new minutes or meeting papers are uploaded
    • clearly specify in your procedures for documenting and maintaining Council minutes that uploading the latest version of minutes is a key responsibility and nominate a specific officer to perform this task
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How do I manage the news updates that appear on our homepage?

The homepage for many council sites includes an active news area with information about Council decisions and activities. There are no hard and fast answers about the records you should keep of this service. It depends very much on the type of information you provide via your news area and the types of risk associated with this information. With this in mind you can decide to:

  • capture a copy of these news stories each time a new story is added. In order to maintain a full record of Council news and events and keep a record of your public statements about these, you may decide to capture a copy of your news stories each time a new story is added. You can do this by:
    • automatically capturing a full record of each news story as it is uploaded
    • capturing summary information of newsfeeds by capturing RSS notifications of news updates
    • capturing a weekly or fortnightly digest of news information.
  • not capture a copy of these news stories each time they are added. You may perform a risk assessment and determine that, as each of these news stories is already captured in some way as a business record through the minutes of council meetings, newspaper advertisements or some other mechanism, you will make a business decision not to capture these news updates.
  • capture a copy of the news stories that you know deal with high risk business areas. You decide that most of the news you publish is of a low risk and informative nature and that most of this information is duplicated in other council records. However, from time to time, you know that important Council requirements are advertised in part via your news update page. You therefore decide to implement a web management procedure whereby all news updates coming from a certain business area or all updates requiring community response or participation are flagged for capture as records in your corporate records system. In these instances, you may want to assign the responsibility for record capture to the business area involved.
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How do I manage online surveys?

Many councils are now using online surveys to ask ratepayers about council services and how they should be updated or improved. This data is used as the basis for decisions to start, stop or refine council services. To capture records of this important research you should:

  • ensure the final version of the survey is captured in your corporate records system. This formal record should already exist in your corporate records system.
  • capture a record of the time period that the survey was available online. If the survey is going to have a direct impact on the services Council offers, you may have ratepayers complaining that they did not see the survey and they may ask you to demonstrate the specific time period that it was available for. Make sure that you have a record of these dates as evidence of your consultation process. You can capture this by:
    • a report from your content management system
    • a metadata notes description attached to the formal record of the survey captured in the records system
    • a formal business report to management that reports on the consultation process and specifies the location of the survey and the time period that it was available.
  • make sure mechanisms are in place to capture a formal record of all responses to the survey. Council officers need the results of the survey to inform their business decisions. Make sure formal records are able to be kept of all survey responses. These records should:
    • link questions and answers. Some online survey tools or forms software do not connect answers with questions and so can make completed forms or survey responses very difficult to interpret
    • be captured into the corporate records system, either individually or as a comprehensive report of all survey responses
    • be anonymous where appropriate. If your survey claims that no identifying information will be linked to survey responses unless expressly added by the person completing the survey, make sure that no identifying information such as email addresses or server locations is captured in the corporate records system.
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How do I manage documents that are posted online for comment?

These documents should be managed in the same way that surveys are managed:

  • make sure that the document is already captured as a formal record in your corporate records system
  • make a formal record of the exact dates that the document was available for comment online, so that you have an official record if required of the exact period that the document was publicly available.
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How do I manage information posted about consultation forums or public meetings?

It is possible that this information exists only on the web. Therefore:

  • make a record of these information posts. If these information posts deal with contentious proposals, such a proposition to outsource childcare or reforms to zoning permissions, it could be important to make a formal record of your notices about consultation forums or public meetings. Even if you have also advertised in the local newspaper and kept records of this consultation, it could also be important to keep a record of your web announcements as well.
  • keep a record of how long the information was publicly accessible for. If you keep a record of these information posts, you should also keep a record of the period during which they were available online.
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Retention and disposal

All the records that you make and keep of your web activity are subject to the retention and disposal requirements of the State Records Act. This means that there are legally specified periods that your web records must be kept for.

There is not one specified retention period for all your web records. Retention periods differ according to different business needs. For example, web records from high risk business areas, such as planning and development, may have to be kept longer than records about less risky services. Your records manager will be able to give you more guidance about how long different types of records have to be kept for.

The records described in this guideline generally have retention periods ranging from five years and upwards. As a web manager, you should speak to records staff about the retention requirements that apply to your specific web records. Having this information will help you to plan for how these records can best be managed.

Example: Managing web records using retention requirements

You and your records manager identify that your news updates need to be kept for 5 years in accordance with your specified retention requirements. Together you decide that these records will best be managed as secure records in your content management system for this period.

However, you also both decide that all web records with retention periods longer than 5 years should be exported out of the content management system and into your corporate records system on a regular basis. The corporate records system is better equipped to sustain secure records for longer periods and so you decide that this is the best and most cost effective solution for managing long term retention requirements.

Knowing the retention requirements that apply to your records and understanding how these can best be managed means your web records will be protected and preserved and managed in the most cost effective way possible.

Published April 2008 / Revised 2009, February 2015

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