Blind citizens in Rotorua will now have access to a vast international library after an international treaty came into effect last week.

The Marrakesh Treaty, an international treaty with the World Intellectual Property Organisation, aims to provide greater accessibility to reading material for people who are blind or have low vision.

On January 4, New Zealand became the 60th country to sign the treaty, which now covers 87 countries.

Daniel Phillips, chairman of the Rotorua branch of Blind Citizens NZ, said it was a "brilliant" initiative.


'We've been working on it for years, with the Blind Foundation," he said.

"I think it's a great idea."

There are about 30 members of the Rotorua branch of Blind Citizens NZ.

The treaty means organisations like Blind and Low Vision NZ will be able to access the braille-translated or large-print editions of books of similar agencies in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. They could order these books from agencies in other countries which have signed the treaty to make the books available to readers in New Zealand.

Phillips wondered how many New Zealanders would benefit from the treaty, however.

"We're a long way from where it all happens," he said.

Before the Marrakesh Treaty, blind and vision-impaired people had access to less than 5 per cent of the total quantity of information available in print, Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi said.

"The Marrakesh Treaty means an end to a 'book famine' experienced by many of New Zealand's blind citizens," he said.


"They will now be able to access an international virtual library through global collaboration."

Disability Issues Minister Carmel Sepuloni said the treaty meant disabled people would be able to have greater participation in public life.

Blind & Low Vision NZ library manager Geraldine Lewis agreed.

Lack of access to public information was the single biggest barrier to employment, education and effective participation in society for people who were blind or had low vision, she said.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment estimate there are up to 168,000 New Zealanders who have a print disability.