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Stats NZ seeks public input in legislation refresh

Sarah Putt, Contributor. 06 November 2018, 9:37 am

Generation X was making its first baby steps into the world, and Generations Y and Z had not even been thought of, when the Statistics Act 1975 came into being. But for 40 years the country's data has been governed by an Act that doesn't even have the word 'data' in it.

That's just one of the revelations that Stats NZ shares in its online content inviting New Zealanders to participate in a public consultation process that is part of a review of the Act. It also makes much of the year 1975, with a quiz about what it was possible to do in that milestone year for numbers (hint: not much). Could you make an international landline call? Was there more than one channel on TV? Did the Allblacks play more than one game? Really, it's a wonder we weren't all bored to tears in 1975!

The approach taken by Stats NZ in the consultation process over changes to the Act that governs it - fun and approachable - is in keeping with how it makes available its public data. As a Techblog contributor I often find myself on the Stats NZ site, impressed by its thoroughness (for example, my annual check-in on dial-up users). If you can't find what you need on the website the people at Stats NZ are very helpful in tracking down the numbers for you.

It is an excellent approach to making data open and available to all New Zealanders, which is exactly how it should be in a democratic country.

Meanwhile, the current Statistics Act might not contain the word data, but the consultation document is filled to the brim with it, noting that data collection is a balancing act.

"We need to find the right balance between delivering increased value to New Zealanders through data availability and use, and ensuring data is shared and used in a way that keeps people safe and is acceptable to society. If we don't get this right, data may not be used safely, and public trust and confidence will decline. But if we are too cautious, we could miss out on new insights with the potential to change lives."

While the public consultation document is 46 pages, the core of what the legislation refresh sets out to achieve is on page 15. Respondents are asked if the following outcomes are the "right ones for data and statistics legislation".

Stats outcomes.png

The Statistics Act is part of a suite of laws that govern data collection, management and use which include the Official Information Act 1982, Public Records Act and the Privacy Act 1993/Privacy Bill 2018. As data becomes more intrinsic to decision making - both in public and commercial decision making, these laws are becoming even more critical in ensuring that we live in a fair, equitable and democratic society.

Public submissions close at the end of the week (Friday 9 November) and you can check out the full document here.


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