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Immunity from seizure for cultural objects on loan discussion document released

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage has today released a discussion document that canvases the benefits and risks of introducing legislation to protect New Zealand museums borrowing objects from overseas.

The discussion document has been developed following several high-profile cases overseas in which legal claims have been made on objects loaned between museums. These claims usually centre on ownership disputes.

While there have not been any claims of this nature lodged in New Zealand courts, the discussion document notes that in the wake of recent claims, international lenders are seeking stronger legal protection against such claims.

This protection is generally known as Immunity From Seizure (IFS) and has been introduced or is being considered in an increasing number of countries, including Australia.

The key question posed in the discussion paper is whether New Zealand should introduce IFS legislation.

It looks at whether, without the legislation, New Zealand will miss out on opportunities to hold major international exhibitions and how New Zealand’s reputation could be damaged if legal claims were made on objects on loan here.

The paper also notes some potential risks of introducing IFS legislation. In particular, it could be seen as preventing legitimate claims on objects.

Other issues considered in the discussion document include what types of institutions should be covered by the legislation, whether special provision should be made for Māoriobjects and how IFS legislation would work alongside the Protected Objects Act.

Submissions on this discussion document close on Monday, September 24, 2012. Submitters are welcome to make additional comments or raise issues not discussed in the paper.

The discussion document and instructions on how to make a submission are available at

Updated on 23rd July 2015