Ambitious programme underway to measure wellbeing

  • Hon James Shaw
Climate Change

Tena koutou katoa and, because it’s Cook Islands language week, kia orana.


Today we are launching Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand and this gives effect to the commitment in the Green Party-Labour Party Confidence and Supply Agreement to develop a comprehensive set of environmental, social and economic sustainability indicators.

Our Government is committed to more accurate, broader measures of wellbeing.

Now, for 30 years and, in fact, going back before the Green Party even existed, to our predecessor, the Values Party, we have advocated for a broader measure of success and wellbeing.

My predecessor, Jeanette Fitzsimons, said, in her valedictory speech, that her main goal in Parliament had been to find better ways of measuring our economic success, and that the aim should be a better economy, not just a bigger one.

And in government we can do that.

So, for Marama and I, it is, I think, a real privilege that we are now in a position to start to give effect to what is such a longstanding and central tenet of Green economic thinking and policy.

A core part of this is sustainability.

Are the things that we’re doing to increase our wellbeing today adding to or detracting from the ability of future generations to increase their own living standards?

Jeanette also said that our nation’s wellbeing is not a number on a GDP chart. And our Government, this Government, recognises that.

The economy is obviously important but GDP is not the be all and the end all.

Most people will tell you that the security of their job, the health of their kids, and their ability to pay the power bill is more important to them.

Many people might say that clean air to breath and that doesn’t make them sick is the most important thing of all.

Now the Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, will stand up to deliver the Budget next year and, alongside fiscal indicators, will report on the wellbeing of people and the environment that sustains us.

Today we’re beginning a process of developing exactly what those indicators should be.

And we want to hear from New Zealanders about what’s important to them.

It is a very ambitious programme of work to help us to understand how New Zealand is really doing.

While economic growth, the balance of payments, the state of the government’s books are important they don’t show what life is really like for New Zealanders. And they don’t necessarily represent what is most important to most people.

So we want to know what matters to New Zealanders and to their whanau; both now and also in the future.

To help us understand that, and to find the data and to analyse it, the Government has asked Stats NZ to lead the development of Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand.

Stats will work with partners across government agencies, businesses, Māori and community organisations to understand what matters to Kiwis.

The work will help to choose the indicators, collect the data, and then share the results with all of us.

This is about understanding the real picture of success and wellbeing that goes beyond just productivity and turnover and throughput.

And, yes, those things are important but they don’t measure the costs and impacts of things like the pollution that gets created, or whether the jobs produced offer liveable wages.  And those things are just as important.