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Find out about NZ progress indicators Tupuranga Aotearoa and how it presents a picture of New Zealand’s changing economy, environment, and society:

About NZ progress indicators Tupuranga Aotearoa

NZ progress indicators Tupuranga Aotearoa shows how New Zealand’s economy, society, and environment are changing. It will help you consider what these changes mean.

We developed NZ progress indicators Tupuranga Aotearoa to satisfy a growing demand for measures of societal progress that incorporate all areas of life.

The indicators we use represent key aspects of a complex reality in an informative, accessible way. Taken as a whole, they present a picture of how well we are living, how resources are being distributed and used, and what we are leaving for future generations.

We will be updating the indicators regularly.

Contact us, info@stats.govt.nz, if you would like to take part in the discussions on the future of NZ progress indicators Tupuranga Aotearoa.

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About the indicators

The indicators show long-term trends, and help to reveal the interdependencies between the economy, environment, and society.

Using the indicators

It is important to consider the full array of indicators together. They provide insight into one or more dimensions of progress: economic, environmental, and social. The dimensions are related, either directly or indirectly, to each other. Change in one dimension of progress is typically accompanied by change elsewhere.

The indicators are designed to raise awareness and inform debate. They can help shape public policies, promote societal change, and transform the way we do things by informing citizens, communities, and leaders.

We leave it to you to determine whether New Zealand is progressing well or not. Whether trends are thought to be positive or negative involves value judgements. Such judgements can change over time and vary according to perspectives.

Indicators are just that, an indication. Statistics NZ and other government departments produce a rich variety of statistics relevant to assessing progress. NZ progress indicators Tupuranga Aotearoa acts as a bridge, to help you access more detailed information.

Selection criteria

The 16 indicators presented here are a representative subset of the 85 indicators published in 2009 in Measuring New Zealand's progress using a sustainable development approach: 2008. We selected these indicators because they are measurable, statistically sound and accessible, and relate to Statistics NZ's Framework for measuring sustainable development. The key requirements for each indicator are that it:

  • adequately and consistently reflects the phenomenon that it is intended to measure
  • responds rapidly to changes in the phenomenon
  • is unambiguous with regard to evaluation
  • is derived from high-quality, methodologically sound data
  • is relevant to the New Zealand context
  • can be directly related to at least one of the defining principles in the framework
  • is easily understood and provides information useful for decision making.
Period covered and trend assessment

The indicators cover the period from 1987 (if data is available from then) to the most current data available. We start with 1987 as this was when the common definition of sustainable development, the Brundtland definition, was first adopted by the World Commission on Environment and Development.

For each indicator, you can:

  • compare the change over its time frame to see if the indicator shows positive, negative, or neutral change in relation to sustainable development
  • see the data in an interactive graph or download it as a CSV file
  • access related information and further analysis, and more detailed data.
Source data

The data for the indicators are sourced from Statistics NZ, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Social Development, the Ministry for the Environment, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and the Department of Conservation. 

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About the symbols used

NZ progress indicators Tupuranga Aotearoa uses a range of symbols to highlight trends and dimensions.

Trends

By comparing changes in the data between 1987 and 2016 (or over the time period available), we identified a trend for each indicator. The trends illustrate either positive, negative, or neutral change in relation to sustainable development. The trends are identified by one of the following symbols:

Tick large. Positive change

No change. Neutral change

Cross Large. Negative change

Note that a red cross, for example, does not mean that the result is unsustainable. Rather, a red cross shows that there has been a negative change over the time period in relation to sustainable development as defined in our Framework for measuring sustainable development.

Dimensions

Each indicator is related to one or more dimensions of progress. The dimensions are:

Icong, social.Social

Icon, economic.Economic

Icon, environmental.Environmental

The progress indicator tool provides an overview of the interrelationships between the dimensions.

About the framework used to measure progress

The progress indicators are based on a statistically robust framework for measuring progress towards sustainable development. Below is a summary of some of the main concepts and the structure of the framework. For more details, see Framework for measuring sustainable development.

Multi-dimensional approach

Economic growth is often seen as a synonym for societal well-being, with gross domestic product (GDP) used as a proxy for standard of living. As an economic measure, GDP does not provide insight into the social and environmental effects of economic growth. Also, it does not represent aspirations such as access to education, a good status of health, political rights, or a clean environment.

Internationally, there is growing recognition that understanding societal progress involves bringing together measures from across the areas of economic, environmental, and social activity. While economic performance is still fundamental, social and environmental aspirations are equally important. Progress and societal well-being are increasingly regarded as an outcome of interrelationships between multiple dimensions.

Capital approach

The framework we use to select indicators is based on the capital approach to measuring sustainable development. Our framework includes financial and produced capital, natural capital, human capital, and social capital. We define capital assets as resources that generate a flow of goods and services to generate well-being.

Definition of sustainable development

The following definition of sustainable development underpins Statistics NZ's framework for measuring sustainable development and NZ progress indicators Tupuranga Aotearoa:

"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Sustainable development means ensuring that well-being is at least maintained over time. The principle of fairness within and between present and future generations should be taken into account in the use of environmental, economic and social resources.


Putting these needs into practice requires living within the limits of the natural environment."

This definition is an interpretation of the Brundtland definition, which was first adopted by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987:

"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

Target dimensions and defining principles

Statistics NZ’s framework for measuring sustainable development identified three target dimensions to sustainable development:

  • economic efficiency
  • environmental responsibility
  • social cohesion.

Under these dimensions, the framework identified 38 principles that define what the target dimensions mean.

From these principles, we identified topics and themes that are important for sustainable development, and indicators that provide the measures for assessing progress.

The assumption is that if the defining principles are followed, New Zealand will move forward on the sustainable development path.

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Related webpages and publications

The following publications explain the conceptual framework used in developing NZ progress indicators Tupuranga Aotearoa. They also contain earlier versions of the indicators.

Key findings on New Zealand's progress using a sustainable development approach: 2010
Updates 13 of the 16 key indicators outlined in the 2008 version of the key findings.

Measuring New Zealand's progress using a sustainable development approach: 2008
Uses 85 indicators to measure New Zealand’s environmental, economic, and social progress and assess whether that progress is consistent with sustainable development.

Key findings on New Zealand's progress using a sustainable development approach: 2008
Uses 16 key indicators to present the key findings of Measuring New Zealand's progress using a sustainable development approach: 2008.

Statistics New Zealand's framework for measuring sustainable development
Defines the concept of sustainable development and provides a basis for selecting indicators to measure progress towards sustainable development.

Monitoring progress towards a sustainable New Zealand
Provides a basis for selecting indicators to measure progress towards sustainable development and outlines an experimental set of sustainable development indicators. This was the forerunner to our 2009 publication Measuring New Zealand's progress using a sustainable development approach: 2008. 

Page updated December 2013
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