Address at the opening of Statistics House, Hinemoa Street, Centreport

  • Clayton Cosgrove

Good evening ladies and gentlemen,

I would first like to acknowledge the presence of the Australian High Commissioner, Dr Allan Hawke, the Mayor of Wellington, Kerry Prendergast, former Government Minister and current Chair of the Advisory Committee on Official Statistics, Hon David Caygill, and the Government Statistician, Brian Pink.

I am delighted to be here for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the rare opportunity tonight gives me to combine my two major portfolios, Statistics and Building Issues.
And I am proud to acknowledge Statistics New Zealand's contribution to this nation and how it knows and understands itself; your contribution to enabling this country to develop based on strong data and accurate information.

You perform a quiet service, often unnoticed and taken for granted, but what you provide is critical to this country's future.

We need the facts, the numbers and sophisticated and insightful use of them to make the calls and decisions necessary to guide our economy and our society on any number of fronts.

The move to Statistics House we are celebrating today is but one of a number of initiatives resulting from the Top Down Review of Statistics New Zealand in 2003.

The primary result of this review was that Statistics New Zealand was confirmed in its leadership role in the system of Official Statistics.

Other important results of the Top Down Review were:

·the resolution to strengthen and develop the system of Official Statistics
·the need to document and retain the most important statistical data as an enduring national resource
·the need to ensure greater access to this resource for a range of users and
·to manage on a 'whole of government basis" respondent burden from official surveys – basically making sure we don't ask the same things of the same people in ten different ways!

I am pleased to be able to report that I have seen that good progress is being made on all these fronts.

Another key theme of the Top Down Review was to encourage more collaboration and co-operation across New Zealand's statistical community. Having had the opportunity today to look around this new environment, I can see how this building will serve as a hub to support that aim.

There is an increasing demand from both the public and government for high quality statistics. Indeed, government, in particular, requires quality evidence to support the policy advice it needs.

As part of generally building capability across the public sector, and in helping support Statistics New Zealand develop a high quality and expanding programme of Official Statistics, there has been considerable government investment in the department in recent years.

And one of the challenges faced by Statistics New Zealand has been to attract and retain high quality people with the necessary skills.

It is fair to say statistics have never been simple, but they have become more complex in their construction over time.
The focus of statistical activity has shifted from collecting data and number-crunching, to greater use of administrative data and data integration.

And the new working environment that has been created in Statistics House is an important part of addressing these challenges.

The department now has a modern, professional workplace that supports the way a statistical office of the 21st century needs to operate, with flexibility and communication paramount.

A key recommendation of the Top Down Review was the establishment of the Advisory Committee on Official Statistics.
Chaired, as I noted earlier, by Hon David Caygill, and comprising a mix of notables from government, academia and the business community, I have no doubt that it will provide me with high quality and independent advice on:

·the health of Tier 1 statistics
·the appropriateness of the standards, policies and protocols of Tier 1 statistics
·and any changes necessary to improve Tier 1 statistics

I look forward to working with both the committee and Statistics New Zealand as we move to strengthen and develop the framework of official statistics in New Zealand.

You have an impressive new headquarters. Enjoy it. Use it constructively and go out there and do what you do for this country so well.

I now declare Statistics House open.