Research proposals to access microdata will be assessed using the following principles:
- Access to microdata must be for statistical purposes and/or bona fide research purposes.
- Access to microdata must be consistent with the Statistics Act and other relevant legislation.
- Access to microdata is at the discretion of the Government Statistician.
- Access to microdata must protect respondents’ confidentiality.
- Access to microdata must not adversely affect Statistics New Zealand’s relationship with respondents.
- Decisions on requests for access to microdata will be provided through transparent processes.
Some datasets held by Statistics New Zealand have been collected under an Act other than the Statistics Act. Consent to access to such microdata must be obtained from the Chief Executive of the steward agency. Access must take into account provisions in the Privacy Act which govern the use of information beyond the purpose for which it was originally collected. Examples of such data sources are vitals, imports and exports, building consents data and justice statistics. The Privacy Commissioner will be consulted in cases where an express legal provision exists that parallels or constrains the Statistics Act 1975.
Statistics Act provisions
It is important for all researchers to be familiar with the confidentiality provisions of the Statistics Act 1975, as well as other relevant legislation such as the Privacy Act 1993.
There are four sections of the Statistics Act 1975 which make it possible to provide access to microdata researchers.
Under Section 37C of the Act, individual schedules (i.e. microdata) can be disclosed in certain circumstances.
This disclosure is at the discretion of the Government Statistician and is "solely for bona fide research or statistical purposes in relation to a matter of public interest".
Researchers must have "the necessary research experience, knowledge and skills to access and use the information contained in the schedules". Each researcher must also sign a Declaration of Secrecy.
Researchers contracted to Statistics New Zealand
Under Section 21(3B), an independent contractor under contract to Statistics New Zealand, and any employee of that contractor, can be required by the Government Statistician to make a statutory Declaration of Secrecy. They are then considered to be employees of Statistics New Zealand for the purposes of the security and confidentiality provisions of the Statistics Act 1975.
This provision enables Statistics New Zealand to provide researchers with access to microdata and requires them to protect the information in the same way as employees of Statistics New Zealand are obliged to do. Such access is granted to researchers undertaking work considered by Statistics New Zealand to fit with the purpose of Statistics New Zealand and which is of significant public interest.
Under Section 9, information that is collected jointly by Statistics New Zealand and another government department, local authority or statutory body can be exchanged between those organisations.
Employees from the other organisations involved in collecting or processing the data are required to sign a Declaration of Secrecy. Obligations under the Act will extend to any agency involved in a joint collection.
Permission from supplier
Under Section 37 information may be disclosed if consent is obtained in writing from the person supplying it.
In some cases, Statistics New Zealand may hold datasets which are not collected under the Statistics Act 1975, however relevant provisions of the Act, as well as appropriate policies, will be considered to apply to them.
Penalties for contravening the Act are outlined in the Statistics Act 1975.