Sunday, April 21, 2024

Dragging data into 21st Century

A Bill that updates New Zealand’s statistics legislation has passed its third and final reading in Parliament.

The Data and Statistics Act replaces the Statistics Act, which has been in effect since 1975.

“In the last few decades, national data and statistics systems across the world have faced challenges arising from rapid technological changes – requiring those systems to evolve at pace,” said Minister of Statistics, David Clark.

“While the world has become increasingly digital and data-driven, New Zealand’s Statistics Act made no mention of ‘data’. It was stuck in 1975.”

The Minister said the Bill will modernise and futureproof New Zealand’s statistics system for decades to come.

 “I would like to thank all those who contributed their views over the past five years to refining this vitally important foundation of our data and statistical systems,” he said.

“Making greater use of administrative data collected and held by government agencies is consistent with international trends. It is not a radical departure from what has happened in the past. When the Government Statistician does delegate collection responsibilities to an agency this Act will ensure, for the first time, proper legal safeguards are in place for that happen safely.

“It is also worth noting, until sample-based surveys were adopted in the middle of last century, many of the statistics produced by government were based on aggregated administrative records.”

Minister Clark said the new Act will enable the Government Statistician to produce more timely and granular statistics with less burden on our people, businesses and communities.

“With that said, I know that surveys will continue to play a vital role in the production of statistics, as there are some things that we cannot know without asking people.” 

“The Government Statistician continues to have statistical independence, ensuring production and release of official statistics are free from political interference. This is a fiercely guarded democratic convention.”

The new Act also explicitly recognises Te Tiriti, the Treaty of Waitangi, and its principles.

“I am immensely proud that for the first time in New Zealand’s history, our statistics legislation recognises the relationship between Māori and the Crown, and the Government’s commitment to work with Māori to ensure that data and statistics meet the needs of Māori, iwi, and hapū.”

“Data helps tell our story as a nation. It’s who we were in the past, who we are in the present, and it shapes who we will become in the future,” Minister Clark said.

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