Government agencies are becoming increasingly dependent on e-mail systems as communication and information transfer tools. Many e-mail messages contain information vital to the business of government, and therefore organisations need to manage the messages in accordance with managerial, legal, and democratic requirements. On a daily basis, government employees send and receive numerous e-mails and, on behalf of their organisations, make decisions about how to manage them.

Although the New Zealand Public Records Act (2005) provides guidelines for records management to New Zealand government agencies, the question is what methods and behaviours are individual employees using to manage business e-mails. So far, however, there is no empirical knowledge available on how individual employees in New Zealand central government agencies manage business e-mail messages.

This paper presents the findings of a recently conducted online survey examining how individual employees of New Zealand central government departments identify and manage e-mails of significant value to the business of government. The results show that employees tend to recognise e-mail as a critical tool in the workplace; however, they also tend to make decisions on identifying and managing the messages on an individual basis, rather than in compliance with organisational requirements.