The organization/ department in brief

The Treasury and Statistics New Zealand are the two main organisations leading the projects that are the subject of this case study. The Treasury is the New Zealand Government’s lead economic and financial advisor providing advice, monitoring, management and leadership to support sustainable increases in intergenerational wellbeing for New Zealand. Statistics New Zealand is New Zealand’s official data agency with an ambitious vision to unleash the power of data to change lives. The aim of both projects (Indicators Aoteroa New Zealand, led by Statistics NZ and the Living Standards Dashboard, led by Treasury) is to complement traditional measures of progress, typified by Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with more holistic measures of sustainable development and intergenerational wellbeing.

What was the scope?

The Living Standards Dashboard is being developed as a policy tool that facilitates the understanding of wellbeing and the contributions to wellbeing that we derive from natural, human, social and financial/physical capital and their interactions. The Natural Resources Sector, led by the Ministry for the Environment, has been providing joint advice to Treasury on the contribution of natural capital to wellbeing. The Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand dashboard is similar in its conceptual scope, but also includes trans-boundary impacts. It is based on the Conference of European Statistics framework for measuring sustainable development (which in turn uses the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting framework as its measurement base).

The selection of indicators for Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand will not be data driven. The intention is to select the ideal set of indicators needed to measure the progress of New Zealand through a wellbeing and sustainable development lens. Placeholders will be included where data are unavailable. In this way, we will be able to highlight where data gaps exist and priority areas for future investment.

What was the role of the Government?

Although the Ministry for the Environment has been reporting for several years through several different mechanisms on the condition of the environment, reporting on nature’s contribution to wellbeing represents a more people centered approach that complements, rather than replaces, standard environmental reporting.

The Living Standards Dashboard (LSD) and Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand (IANZ) will support analysis and advice on the wellbeing of New Zealanders (Living Standards Dashboard and associated reports). Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand is going beyond using traditional government pathways of consultation in an effort to reach out to as many New Zealanders as possible. Statistics New Zealand is consulting widely through social media, through workshops, post cards and community meetings to ask New Zealanders what matters the most to them in terms of their wellbeing. Stats NZ wants to ensure it is measuring what matters to people.

By creating a set of indicators of wellbeing through the Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand project, the government intends to measure outcomes to be able to assess whether its policies are effective. Government likewise intends to provide New Zealanders with the information necessary to hold government to account for its actions to improve the wellbeing of the people of New Zealand.

Through its analysis of the Living Standard Dashboard, the Treasury will be able to provide economic and financial advice about the most effective and efficient means of meeting wellbeing outcomes.

Why was this undertaken?

New Zealand has been on this path for a few years with several innovations centering on the policy/data nexus. Examples include Treasury’s development of the Living Standards Framework, advancements in Environmental Reporting (co-produced by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand), re-establishment of environmental-economic accounting at Statistics New Zealand, and innovations in the Investment Approach taken in the social sector.

One precipitating factor for the development of Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand is government commitment to complementing existing measures and views of value and broadening the definition of progress. A second factor is a government focus on the economic strategy to improve the wellbeing and living standards of all New Zealanders.  As agreed between Labour and the Green Party, the government is aiming to develop a comprehensive set of environmental, social and economic sustainability indicators to better show how New Zealand is doing as a country.

Next steps

Treasury intends to publish the first version of the Living Standards Dashboard by the end of 2018. The Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand selection process should be completed by December 2018. The indicators will then be subject to local and international peer review, and final sign off by the Government Statistician. Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand will be launched around mid-2019. Ongoing work will be needed to establish causal links, to enable research and monitoring by all agencies to evaluate their own policies, to enable New Zealand businesses to tap into the data to evaluate their own sustainability practices. Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand indicators will be regularly tested to ensure they remain enduring, robust, relevant, and flexible.