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Website: Statistics New Zealand

Diana Clement reports on the clearinghouse for Government statistics

Tuesday, May 1st 2007, 12:00AM

by The Landlord


Price: Free to access, specialised requests charged for
Overall rating: three out of five
Website: www.statistics.govt.nz


Statistics New Zealand’s website is a mine of information. But you might need some pretty decent mining equipment to find what you need.

It’s a clearinghouse for a wide range of data from many sources. Those of most interest to property investors include the Census, recorded crime statistics, labour market data, building consents, population trends, consumer price index, retail sales, and household economic data.

This information is sliced and diced into various sections of the site such as statistics by area, economy and people, all of which will be of interest to property investors.

The statistics by area section is probably the first port of call for most property investors. For the Tasman region, for example, it had data on population, age profile, education, ethnic groups, income, employment, families, households, and business. It’s possible to drill down from there to 30 areas such as Wakefield, Brightwater or Rabbit Island.

The user can choose between a series of quick facts, and detailed ones. You can also get a snapshot of a region that you might want to target.

It’s also possible to build your own customised data with what’s called ‘table builder’, which allows you to build your own tables.

‘The economy’ is another biggie with information about economic indicators, industry, business, import and export, the labour market and more. Within the labour market section, for example, it’s possible to look at national labour force projections and download a table containing the data.

The ‘datasets’ section is also of use to the investor. There is no explanation whatsoever as to what the section is. Clicking on the link takes you to an A-Z list covering things like bacon and ham production, and Maori language. But there are plenty of headings of interest to the investor. For example: building consents, population projections and migration.

Drill down in any of these sections and there is a vast wealth of data. There are national population projections, ethnic population projections, family and household projections and sub-national projections of all of these.

Some of the information is in the form of releases and reports. It’s also possible in many cases to build online tables or open/download Microsoft Excel files containing data that you can analyse yourself. For example, the 2006 regional population summaries by regional councils are downloadable as an Excel spreadsheet.

The good news for technophobes is that there’s a free phone helpline where you can get up to half an hour’s assistance at no charge. If your query takes longer than this, you’ll be charged at $115 plus GST an hour. Staff members at the call centre have access to a greater number of databases than those shown online, so it may be worth a call if you can’t find what you want. Likewise if your requirements are very specific then you’ll be charged the same amount for an analyst to complete your work.

Most queries can be completed using the online table-builder software. The type of query that might need an analyst may be taking data from several different sources at once such as the Census, recorded crime statistics, building consents and household economic data for a specific area such as Matamata.

The downside is that this is not an easy site to use in the slightest. The data on this website is not given to you on a platter. You need to find what you want yourself (although there is limited telephone support for free) and then package it to suit yourself. It’s not like visiting a site such as Infometrics Property, where property investors find what they need pretty quickly.

I couldn’t build a table or graph of ethnic information for Tasman in Firefox without assistance. Nor could I find some of the facts I was looking for instantly, such as population for Rabbit Island. It should be said that once a user familiarises themselves with statistics.govt.nz that this would become easier.

Apparently there is an “information architecture review” underway, which might make it easier for people to find what they want.

Nor is much of the data as recent as a property investor would need. For example the majority of the Census data on the site is from 2001, not 2006. A lot has happened to the property market since 2001.

The 2006 Census data is being drip-fed onto the site and more will come out progressively through 2007. The latest of these ‘quickstats’ releases, on population mobility, came out in the middle of February. It looked at the percentages of people moving in and out of different regions over the past five years, Maori, culture and identity, housing, education and training, family and households, paid and unpaid work and unemployment.

Some data is released more regularly than the Census, such as building consents: quarterly, and household economic data: every three years, with one happening at the moment.

If you really get stuck, there’s a tiny link at the bottom right of the homepage that reads: “business tutorials”, that steps you through some of the data available.

Contact: 0508 525 525 (toll free in New Zealand)
System requirements: Internet access and also Microsoft Excel if you want to download tables.


Verdict: Difficult site to find your way around, but a mine of information if you’re willing to persevere
Pros: Vast swathes of data of use to property investors
Cons: Much of the data is too dated (2001 Census) to be of much use to property investors in 2007.





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