Official statistics are all statistics produced by government departments and specified crown entities. They are the cornerstones of good government, and support public confidence in good government. They provide a window to the work and performance of government by showing the scale of activity in areas of public policy, and by allowing citizens to assess the impact of public policies and actions. It is a government responsibility to provide such statistics and to maintain their long-term sustainability.
Official statistics can be collected through surveys or compiled from administrative records collected by government agencies in their daily work. The majority of official statistics are produced by Statistics NZ although many other government agencies produce information that is also highly valued.
Official statistics are defined in section 2 of the Statistics Act 1975. They are statistics derived by government departments from:
- statistical surveys
- administrative and registration records and other forms and papers that are published regularly, or planned to be published regularly, or could be published regularly.
Statistical survey is defined in the Statistics Act as: “a survey of undertakings, or of the public of New Zealand, whereby information is collected from all persons in a field of inquiry or from a sample, by a Government Department with the authority of this Act or any other Act, for the purpose of processing and summarising by appropriate statistical procedures and publishing the results of the survey in some statistical form”.
Administrative records are generally for operational purposes and not primarily for statistical reasons. However, when administrative data records are transformed into aggregate statistics, the principles and protocols apply in the production of those statistics.
The Official Statistics System (OSS)
Statistics New Zealand is New Zealand’s national statistical office. Statistics New Zealand is the leader of the Official Statistics System and is the major producer of official statistics in New Zealand.
The Government Statistician, who is also the Chief Executive of Statistics New Zealand, has a legally mandated role to coordinate statistical activity across government by:
- driving the overall performance of the Official Statistics System and ensuring New Zealand gets the information it needs, and that this is value-for-money at the lowest possible cost to government, the community, and suppliers of data
- providing direction to the Official Statistics System and engaging other government departments to build shared ownership, minimise duplication, and maximise reuse of data
- defining and agreeing on the results that agencies will focus on together
- coordinating statistical activities across government, including setting statistical standards, reviewing and commenting on the validity of statistics, monitoring progress and performance, and ensuring that action is taken if expected results are not achieved
- advising the government on policies, priorities, and the costs and benefits of statistical activities.
Top Down Review
During 2003, Statistics New Zealand, the State Services Commission, and the Treasury jointly undertook the Review of Statistics New Zealand and its Future Contribution to Official Statistics (the Top Down Review).
Top Down Review of the Official Statistics System Phase 2 report (PDF, 269KB)
The Cabinet Policy Committee agreed to the review's proposed model which is to:
- acknowledge the leadership of the Official Statistics System by the Government Statistician
- broaden the coverage of official statistics by including other government agencies
- identify a set of important statistics that are key performance measures of New Zealand (to be known as Tier 1 statistics)
- develop and apply consistent standards, protocols and policies
- coordinate surveys through processes such as a Survey Notification System - the Minister of Statistics will approve all new or substantially revised Tier 1 surveys
- streamline access and release processes
- establish an independent ministerial Advisory Committee on Official Statistics (ACOS)
- establish a research and data archive centre (OSRDAC)
- clarify terms for contract survey work undertaken by Statistics New Zealand
- establish a burden management process.