Do they expect to be taken seriously?

I don’t really have time for this today, but….

I wrote again yesterday about how getting rid of departure cards seems set to degrade the quality of our timely net migration data (currently some of the best available anywhere in the world, which we need since our net migration flows are large and volatile).  SNZ has previously promised that future PLT estimates

will be generated through a probabilistic predictive model of traveller type (ie short-term traveller, or long-term migrant), based on available characteristics of travellers. Such a model will provide a provisional estimate of migration, which we can then revise (if required) as sufficient time passes for us to apply the outcomes-based measure.

In media commentary yesterday, the Minister of Immigration was heard to suggest that under the new system the data will be better than what we’ve had now.

That seemed unlikely, but later yesterday morning SNZ put out a media release including this

Moving to the new methodology means it will be 17 months before final migration estimates are available. That’s because someone has to be in the country for 12 months out of 16 before they can be classified as a long-term migrant.

“A delay of that length would have been unacceptable to those who rely on migration data for planning and analysis, so we are developing a statistical model that will provide a provisional estimate of migration. A first look at provisional external migration estimates will be released tomorrow,” said Mrs Theyers.

In future, statistics for New Zealanders travelling overseas will be largely based on when they return. Some variables – including occupation and country of next residence – will no longer be available.

That statement itself confirmed one of my points –  some important data is going to be lost altogether (eg data on net outflows to Australia will in future have to be inferred, rather than available directly –  and while I’m sure that isn’t the motivation, that will be convenient for governments).  But there was a promise that they would reveal more today.  I was hopeful we might get a proper discussion paper, with details of their modelling techniques, and the results of backtesting, and (for example) the identification of key periods (especially around turning points –  a key focus of macroeconomic analysts) where the new procedure worked well and when it hadn’t.

But no.

What was released this morning was three charts and a page of text.  There is nothing about methodology, nothing about backtesting, nothing about the identification of turning points, in fact nothing that any serious analyst is likely to find useful.

We are told

To mitigate the impacts of such a delay, we are developing a statistical model that gives provisional estimates of migration to give a timelier statistic. The first provisional migration estimates are now available.

“Preliminary data presented today gives our customers their first glimpse of what migration statistics will look like once the outcomes-based approach becomes the official way we measure migration in New Zealand,” population insights senior manager Brooke Theyers said today.

But nothing at all about the model.

But here are results they are happy to show us


(I presume that these numbers are not seasonally adjusted, which probably accounts for some of the jumping around in the median estimates from month to month).

Recall that under the 12/16 methodology, the numbers from 17 months ago become final (and are, in many –  but not all – respects better quality than the current PLT numbers).  But the latest monthly data has huge margins of errors –  even a 50 per cent confidence interval looks to be about 3000 people wide (on a monthly basis –  and bearing in mind that the average monthly inflow in recent years has been about 6000 people).

But to repeat:

  • no model,
  • no series as to how the estimates have evolved over time with the addition more data,
  • no backtesting,
  • no analysis of turning point information

Almost nothing at all.  And none of this is being consulted on, instead the government and SNZ are simply junking one of our best high frequency sets of economic data, about a variable which adds considerable volatility to the New Zealand economy.   We should expect a lot more, especially from a notionally independent national statistics agency.


12 thoughts on “Do they expect to be taken seriously?

  1. Galling to hear Professor Paul Spoonley blathering on about immigration on RNZ. One of his key memes was that businesses in the regions say they will need 70,000 workers so “why can’t temporary rebuild workers stay on for that”. He also mentioned wolf in sheeps clothing Lianne Dalziel (who seems to think Christchurch can grow on growth).

    It is galling because Spoonley has been active on the wrong side of the free speech debate

    Spoonley does a deft hatchet job here:

    Richard Spencer talks about “peaceful” ethnic cleansing which in Spoonley’s case demonstrates the difference between an academic and an activist academic. But be that as is may, Spencer is no threat to anyone because ethnic sorting is neither going to happen nor desirable, (unless we had a civil war of some sort). So in Spoonley’s piece Spencer is the black plastic bag Molyneux and Southern get bundled in. It is the live grenades Spoonley can’t handle.

    Spoonley ends up with

    Perhaps we need the Alt Right to help us in New Zealand have a debate about what we see as the boundaries to free speech and what constitutes incitement to hostility and contempt in the words of the Human Rights Act.

    But, as a recent NZ Herald editorial noted, Southern and Molyneux’s views are easily accessed online and not all “have a right to room on other platforms that try to serve the public interest”.

    So what is Spoonley afraid of other than contradictory points of view (eloquently argued)?


  2. “”Some variables – including occupation and country of next residence – will no longer be available”” So if there is a sudden surge of nurses, primary teachers and building workers emigrating to Australia it will not be be detected.

    Extract from a school newsletter today: “” There are fewer and fewer students at teachers’ college and very few, if any, graduates in the subjects where there is a critical shortage. There are no graduates in Technology and Maori from Auckland Teachers Training College’s Class of 2018.”” Remember this next time an enthusiastic politician promises compulsary Te Reo for all children and NZ having the school leavers needed to build houses.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Te Reo Maori is a waste of money and a waste of time to make it compulsory. Even the newly returned second time 93 year old Prime Minister of Malaysia who in his early years as Prime Minister before he retired, had strongly promoted and enforced Malay as the 1st compulsory language to be taught in Malaysian schools. He is now reversing that compulsory Malay language and reverting back towards compulsory English and on top of that he is making Chinese and Mathematics compulsory, having found that Malays are now going backwards in the international arena unable to communicate internationally due to language difficulties. We would be foolish to go down the track of compulsory Te Reo Maori.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nobody on this blog has less talent for languages than myself so I might be biased. Any NZ child should have the same ability to count in Te Reo as they do in roman numerals – I can’t do it and it is embarassing. I have trouble pronouncing Maori words too but as a friend points out unlike English they are easy to decipher since written Te Reo is phonetic. Basic Te Reo as general knowledge is required if we are to have a unique Kiwi identity and surely every child should be capable of singing our national anthem with some comprehension. Any teaching of any language other than English must NOT be compulsory – it tends to make the failures blame the people (in my case seven years of compulsory French was five years too many and fifty years later I still have to make an effort to appreciate France and the French). My son’s last school provided optional evening classes in Te Reo Maori for pupils and parents – that seems fine.


      • We do not need to learn te reo to have “a unique Kiwi identity”.

        We live in a mad house where one lot are the (supposed) psychiatrists and the rest of us are the lunatics.

        This work thus suggests that for multiculturalism to succeed identities need to be transformed. And, importantly, as Kymlicka suggests, this transformation applies not only to the minority but also to the majority. Indeed, perhaps the major identity transformation is required from members of the majority as their attributes are, as a rule, the same as the ones that define the national identity. Minorities need to be written into the self-definition of the national identity such as to imbue them with existential legitimacy as citizens in parity with the majority

        Such civic definitions serve to place the majority group as a sub-group within the system of intergroup relations,which allows for a new identity to emerge. Legitimacy and status as members of the new community are then less likely to be defined by ethnicity. Such civic based definitions also shape sub-group relations such that ethnically-defined difference becomes less relevant to the community as a whole.

        In a multiethnic/multicultural society, the shift from an exclusive to an inclusive definition of the national prototype requires the emergence of new and consistent discourses about who ‘we’ are (see Kymlicka, 1995). Discourses that do not appeal to ethnic heritage and traditions but to civic values. It is in this context that the role of political leadership comes into place in changing the discourse and creating a consensual view of the national prototype such that it becomes shared by the members of a polity (see Uberoi & Modood, 2013). Moreover, there needs to be an institutionalisation of the public discourse as in line with terms outlined by Parekh (2006).

        The Social Psychology of Social (Dis)harmony: Implications for Political Leaders and
        Public Policy
        Luisa Batalha, Katherine J. Reynolds & Emina Subasic
        Australian National University


      • I imagine that Malay in Malaysia doesn’t compare with Te Reo given <4% speaking te reo and Maori making up 15% of the population. What i wonder is how much of a backlash there is. Not that the government would be interested in letting us know as information means a loss of control on their part.?


      • OK “a unique Kiwi identity” is rather over the top. No need for ” multiculturalism to succeed identities need to be transformed ” stuff – that sounds like the USSR producing new model soviet workers and the Nazi supermen.

        An educated person knows where they are and how they got there and the potential places they could go. So you may never visit Auckland but a NZ child should know it exists. You may be the child of an immigrant (as are both my grandchildren) but you ought to know why there is a Union Jack on the flag and similarly you ought to know a little about Maori and that means a smattering of their language. I cannot see why Te Reo numbers should be tricky and even someone as inept with languages as myself has picked up the odd word ‘Wai’ and ‘Kai’ embedded in place names. Introduction to Maori is an ideal subject for primary schools – you can point to places and meet people and hear their stories – at that age for most children making a subject tangible or visible really helps. A teacher told me that teaching Macbeth always went well because the boys liked the fighting and the girls liked being witches – well the history of English – Maori interaction is full of stories that pupils will enjoy.
        Secondary school is the time for history (world and NZ) and also optional study of languages.


      • ‘Enjoy’ in its meaning ‘possess and benefit from’ not the meaning ‘take delight or pleasure in’.

        The fact that there is a dearth of new Te Reo Maori teachers is worth consideration. It reminds me of how traditional blues delighted Europeans and subsequently white Americans at precisely the time it lost all its black American audience. So musicians such as Muddy Waters went from all black to all white audiences almost overnight. Why does an intelligent young Maori not want to study and then teach Te Reo? Compare with English – the desire to teach English is definitely a minority taste but there remains a solid subset of masochists willing to start teachers training. It is not like Maths where there are well paid alternatives to teaching. Ambitious, proud and intelligent Maori seem to be rejecting their own language just at the time we are creating Maori immersion schools and Maori are very successful in politics. A Maori perspective would be interesting.


  3. [19:00]
    But at the same time, continuing on with an economy built on selling houses to each other and migration. It might have given up growth rates of about 3% but it was not a sustainable economic plan and it wasn’t delivering for New Zealanders, so I’m willing to progress this modernisation of our economy and …

    You would think Paul Spoonley would have spotted that in the subsequent discussion. Will that admission be followed by a deafening silence in the media?


    • The NZ economy is not built on selling houses to each other and it is just another throwaway line with zero substance. The margin earned is in the fitout costs plus a labour component in speculative do up and onsell. The agents make a tiny 2% on the sale. That buying and selling activity is only a tiny fraction of our economy.


  4. This reminds one of the lack of figures for foreign ownership of property (one gets the impression that stopped recording the figures so no one could prove there was an issue). Its hard to drive change if there is no actual knowledge about the size of the problem that the public can get their hands on.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Duncan that statement is wrong. Every sale and purchase of a property now requires an IRD number and the ultimate ownership declared to LINZ and IRD. That information is trapped by lawyers having to complete declarations on Family Trusts and companies. Detailed KYC(Know your customer) compliance is required under the Anti Money Laundering Act which provides LINZ and IRD a huge amount of information.


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