The Department of Internal Affairs will spend just over $6 million on converting its paper births, deaths and marriages records from a paper-based system.
Births, Deaths and Marriages registrar general Brian Clarke says about six million of its 10 million paper records will be converted into some sort of image format during the next three years.
Records only started being computerised this year, in a system known as Day One.
The new project will involve births and deaths records from 1935 and marriages from 1951. The four million records before those dates will remain in their current paper form. A data index will be built with more information than in the current index, and that will be maintained in the Day One system.
Clarke says the present index is very basic. "For example, the birth index doesn't actually contain the date of birth of the person. The indexes I'm able to use under the legislation now actually give quite a lot of information - the date of birth of the child, the place of birth and the parents' names. From a validation perspective, it becomes quite a usable tool."
"Up until 1971 the births and deaths, in particular, are in great big bound volumes - A3-size plus. There are 500 pages to a book, five entries to a page."
The RFP (request for proposal) went out this month and Clarke says more than 40 documents have been sent out to interested parties.
Earlier work on possible options focused on lower end technology such as microfilm. However, Clarke says other imaging technology is moving ahead and coming down in cost.
"We've kept our RFP open in that respect."
Clarke says in doing the project, the registry identified that people use its information to confirm or validate "life events" information with other major users such as the Department of Social Welfare, the passport office, Inland Revenue and the Land Transport and Safety Association.
Under the new system, the passport office might decide it is more efficient to get applicants to agree to the office validating information with Births, Deaths and Marriages rather than applicants obtaining required documents themselves.
Clarke says the system would reduce the compliance costs on the applicant because of greater efficiencies.
Another benefit is that at present the registry is still using priceless records.
"Each time you access the piece of paper it does have a tendency to deteriorate."
Automation on births and deaths will also lower the risk of fraud, including activities such as "tombstone passports", where people can use birth certificates of the deceased to apply for a passport.