Indicators galore

The Government Statistician can’t manage a census competently, and won’t tell us (let alone MPs) just how bad the situation is (about a census taken more than a year ago), but today – aiding and abetting the government’s Wellbeing Budget branding – she was out with the final list of indicators to be published in this brave new world.   It goes under the label “Indicators Aotearoa”, and in addition to not being able to run a census, she seems –  in common with many public servants –  to have forgotten the name of the country: New Zealand.

Among the list of indicators –  many of which are already published (and thus you wonder what value there is in one set of bureaucrats prioritising them and putting them in one place) –  was this snippet.


I don’t have too much problem with suicide rates.  They are reasonably hard and somewhat meaningful data (but comparisons across time and across countries are hard).

But the other three made almost no sense.

Take that “spiritual health” indicator –  well, there is no indicator yet, but an aspiration to have one.  Real resources are being wasted on this stuff.    Who knows what business it is of the government to be measuring “spiritual health”, whatever it means?  And, strangely, it appears that the Government Statistician believes that only the “spiritual health” of Maori people (or was that “Maori society”?) matters.  Are we back in taniwha territory again, or perhaps the Governor of the Reserve Bank is helping with his enthusiasm for the tree god (although I gather the Governor isn’t Maori so his affinity presumably doesn’t count).  As readers know, I’m a Christian, of a fairly orthodox variety.  The General Confession of the Church of England’s 1559 Book of Common Prayer –  Anglicanism having been the most prominent religious strand in New Zealand for most of its history –  reads (emphasis added)

ALMIGHTIE and most merciful father, we have erred and straied from thy waies, lyke lost shepee we have folowed to much the devises and desires of our owne hartes. We have offended against thy holy lawes: We have left undone those thinges whiche we ought to have done, and we have done those thinges which we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us,

It goes on to talk of restoration and penitence, but “there is no health in us” is pretty basic to orthodox Christian belief. Our hope is only in grace.

Now, perhaps, not being Maori, my lack of spiritual health won’t bother the Prime Minister and the Government Statistician, but what about the Maori Anglicans?

The whole thing is absurd, lacking content.  Simply pandering in a way that makes even more of a joke of the framework –  itself, in part a way of distracting attention from decades of economic failure.

Then there is the language development and retention one  –  again, no actual indicators only aspirations.   Apparently it is a problem for the Government Statistician and the Prime Minister if an ethnic Chinese New Zealander whose ancestors came 100 years ago doesn’t speak Chinese.  Or a descendent of a Dalmatian immigrant who doesn’t speak Croatian?  Isn’t that a matter of (a) probably, assimilation, and (b) choice?   What business is it of the governments?  Isn’t the ability to speak English much more important?

What is this nonsense?

And then we have the “sense of belonging” to New Zealand which –  according to the Government Statistician –  is an “important aspect of being a New Zealander”.  Except that….if you were born here and have lived here all your life, you are unquestionably a New Zealander, however you might answer an SNZ survey.    I haven’t lived here all my life, but I have no other citizenships (or rights to them) but how would I answer the question?  I don’t know.  “New Zealand” certainly isn’t my first loyalty, I feel a fairly strong affinity for the wider Anglo world, and I’m a minority in New Zealand but an adherent to a faith that transcends national, ethnic or whatever boundaries.  Globalists –  of whom I’m not one –  will probably (rationally) tell the interviewer they identify with “the world”.  And what of it?   Sure, a number emerges from the survey, but it will mean almost nothing, and its place in this suite of indicators will encourage officials and politicians to think it is something they should try to use policy to influence (all sort of daft interventions might “work”, but to what end?).

Couldn’t the Government Statistician just get on with doing the basics right?   And if the government were to take seriously doing something about reversing the longrunning decline in our relative productivity performance, it would open up options to improve all sorts of things that, individually or collectively, we care about.  Probably wouldn’t do much for (Maori) spiritual health, should they ever be able to “measure” it.



25 thoughts on “Indicators galore

    • My grandson Kupila who was born in New Zealand with only NZ citizenship will have to decide which ethnic group he belongs to. Is he English like me despite no European DNA or like his grandmother who lives next door to him a Papuan Mekeo or then again where does he learn the Low Island language of Manus of his mother’s father or the western highlands language of his father’s father?

      The statisiticians will also have to allow for a friend of mine born in South Africa who always claims to be Maori just to be awkward (he has several children) or another friend who tells me he is 16th Maori and knows his Maori heritage but refuses to let his daughter know because he is worried she will stop trying at college if she knew she was partly Maori.

      It is a minefield best left alone.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Very sad to say the sense of being a New Zealander has been greatly strengthened by the Christchurch terrorist massacre. My guess an average movement from a 6 to an 8. It would be unfortunate to treat such a terrible as a positive.

    I suspect this is an indicator that will be quietly dropped as Maori and other ethnic groups are persuaded by self-interested politicians and academics that their primary identity is something other than New Zealander.

    Matthew 22:21 Jesus said “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” Romans 13:1 “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God and those which exist are established by God.”

    I’m preparing my tax return so my sense of being a New Zealander is very strong this week.


  2. I don’t usually exchange Bible verses here, but.

    Yes, a strong biblical emphasis on obeying the law, but equal one on Christians as aliens and strangers (Hebrews 13, I Peter 2), having no abiding city here. Hence, I willingly pay my taxes, and enrol to vote, but try to wear other allegiances/identifications with NZ (or the govt of NZ) lightly


  3. Interfaith dialogue
    The Press8 Apr 2019

    Sam Neill has joined the chorus calling to replace the Christ Church Cathedral with a new interfaith centre. For such people the cathedral is a relic of English colonialism that must disappear to enter this new interfaith moment. Christians, including Anglicans, also lament the inherent violence of our colonial past and want a society with a greater diversity.

    We should be mindful that the secular project has an unexamined colonising tendency that is slightly at odds with itself. Differences between faiths are as important as our shared values; it is difference that produces the diversity we are being invited to celebrate and make space for.

    Sam Neill however, perhaps inadvertently, offers common ground for interfaith dialogue.

    Let us begin with the question, ‘‘How would you respond if a celebrity, history professor and businessman said your synagogue, mosque, cathedral or temple was a relic that should be replaced with an interfaith centre?’’

    Rev Andrew McDonald, Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo
    This must be extremely disappointing:

    The police in Dunedin have found no evidence of white nationalist or white supremacy groups active in the city. Questions have been asked since the terror attacks when it emerged the alleged gunman has been living in Dunedin for almost two years before the massacre which left 50 people dead and dozens more injured. The police say the evidence so far suggests the shooter acted alone.
    Inspector [?] says the incidents of race based crime and xenophobia are infrequent and isolated.

    And Finally

    This was in The Press: Touches on the real issue (although I’m not sure civic nationalism is the answer)

    Liked by 1 person

    • It would make more sense for Sam to suggest the mosque was made the interfaith centre. But the push back would be strong and vocal. To suggest the cathedral, that has links to the beginning of Christchurch and, more importantly is Christian, is an easy target and sound bite.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting quote from your last link “”The time has come to move away from a society modelled on the values dictated by neo-liberal economic theory and return to a society modelled on the values of our cultural heritage.””.
      Our current multi-cultural enthusiasts confuse the fine values of our cultural heritage with past failure to live up to those values. For example they see historically no womens rights without an appreciation that it was from those values that the women’s rights movement was created.

      Liked by 2 people

    • The Rev Andrew McDonald’s letter is notable given the (muted) response from the Anglican hierarchy: no more than “the decision has all ready been made”?


      • Muted in public, but I’m betting there was a lot of inner screaming. I liked that pared-down, ‘not going there’ response. We’d been ‘going there’ for years.


    • Interesting to read the proposed solutions to the problems of social cohesion in a multi cultural society by Jim Traue: “return to a society modelled on the values of our cultural heritage”
      The obvious but undiscussed issue with that is that culture is, above all else a system of values; you can’t make a call for “cultural values” in a truly multi-cultural setting.
      What do you do with cultural values such as the subjugation of women, forced marriage, FGM, or the persecution of homosexuals as frequently promoted within Islam. Or the various beliefs and practices of the Gloriavale community for example.
      The childish “loving kindness, fairness, equity, justice, mutual respect, tolerance, equality” fails to deal with the issues of extremes of values presented by a “tolerant” multiculturalism.
      More concerning perhaps; the moves to legally remove the right to honestly discuss these issues of values opens the door to identity based division, misunderstanding, separatism and ultimately the sorts of nightmares that litter the history of humanity.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Government Departments are infested with a drive for Maori everything…. kapa haka groups on tax payers time…. mihi this and that…

    Maybe RBNZ was immune while you where there Michael but it is everywhere in the State Sector and frankly it’s a waste of time and money as it the movement tries to shoe horn Maoriness in to everything, no matter how silly or inappropriate.

    Maori language and culture will survive because it has some type of utility to people regardless of race… Latin survives as a religious language and in science to some extent….

    Forcing Maori language and culture on people via the vast coercive machine of the State just breeds resentment….

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have a weird view of learning the Maori language – that it should be compulsory in primary school but discouraged in secondary school – where the focus should be on the world, not NZ.

      It’s a lovely language that shouldn’t be lost – and it is a dying language – but the Govt wont be judged in the future as they are no longer collecting the data on it!

      It would be great is all NZ’ers could converse in Maori – rather than the minimal virtue signalling we get (esp in Govt Depts) by people who probably know all of two or three phrases. A while back my friend learnt a couple of sentences in Maori (are you enjoying the weather and how is your grandmother ..or something) and when greeted on the phone with a Kia Ora he would recite them back – to a blank response of course.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I have two teenage children who would like it explained what value there is in learning Te Reo. As a parent I would not be adverse to it being mandatory at secondary school if this question was adequately answered. I’m yet to hear an explanation of the value that is not circular.


  5. The final list of indicators (see link in first paragraph) is fascinating. There are 133 indicators. The 15th is defined as ‘Income adequacy’ which is measured by “”Percentage of people aged 18 years and over who report their income is enough or more than enough to meet everyday needs.”” The statistician should meet my son the apprentice builder; he could earn more than Jacinda and still not meet what he considers his everyday needs. He told me he wants to be able to buy anything he wants without having to think about whether he can afford it.

    There are some indicators it will be good to have reported; for example 101 ‘”A measure of the change in the total stock of freshwater resources in NZ.” but the handful of clearly defined indicators will be swamped by the sheer number of indicators and the vague ones will lead to unproductive debate.

    Readers may enjoy the embedded values of our statisticians. Examples:
    66. Job Strain A self-reported measure of the proportion of employed people who are in jobs where the worker faces more demands than the resources they have available to them, creating stressors which can be detrimental to workers’ physical and mental health and wellbeing.
    43. Domestic violence A measure of the prevalence of family violence. Family violence has lasting impacts on victims, their families and communities, and wider society.
    17. Low income A measure of the share of people living in low income households. Having limited economic resources limits people’s ability to participate in society and restricts their quality of life.
    10. Engagement in cultural activities A measure of the level of engagement in cultural activities in NZ. Engagement in cultural activities contributes positively to wellbeing.

    That they need to explain why domestic violence is bad reveals the gap between their exalted state and the deplorable state of the general public.


  6. “It is my hope that the committee will appreciate that I have made this determination after careful thought and application of statistical best practice. Without the appropriate context, these individual numbers would be open to misinterpretation,”

    These are laudable aims but it is unfortunate that any thoughts about statistical best practice and context go completely out of the window when it comes to publishing their so-called gender pay gap statistics, which are hopelessly misleading and all but useless given the lack of context about what they don’t capture.

    Dismayed to see even the Reserve Bank spouting similar nonsense in its recent press release, quoting someone who believes the terrible actions of one Australian as evidence that racism and discrimination are problems in this country, justifying yet more “diversity and inclusion”, i.e.. discrimination.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I received a letter from the Human Rights Commissioner addressed to em via the on Neighbourly Website:

    Paul Hunt

    Human Rights Commission

    “Racism lives in everyday actions and comments that we laugh off, excuse, and therefore accept. Racism starts small and takes many forms.

    But accepting it is a choice. We can stop casual racism from growing into something more extreme. We can give it no encouragement. No respect. No place. No power. We can give it nothing.

    If you witness casual racism, giving nothing to it means refusing to stoop to its level and give it any positive reaction to feed off and grow. A blank face can speak volumes to someone who seeks a response, as can the non-confrontational words ‘I’m giving that nothing’.” Etc.

    I replied

    Boil your head?
    I’m not buying into that social justice world view that sees people as basically pure but able to be infected by thought pathogens.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Perhaps a complaint to this virtue signalling non entity might be in order regarding the overt racism of Marama Davidson and her side kick Golriz Ghahraman. Incredibly the same pair pushing tyrannical hate speech laws with Truth as no defence.
      Hopefully their continued outbursts will be the death of the Red Greens.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. My column of late last year on the Indicators Aotearoa project may be of some interest.

    I’d there argued against the measuring of spiritual health as an outcome variable in the suite of national wellbeing measures. Decent measures should be pretty close to unipolar. Few people would turn down more environmental quality if offered at zero cost. Or more wealth. I’m pretty sure a lot of atheists would decline a free offer of greater spiritual health. I don’t even know how I’d answer a “On a scale of 1-10, how’s your spiritual health”. Do I say 10 because I can’t imagine its being better? Zero because the question makes as much sense to me as “How are your chakras?” or “Are your colours in balance?”

    But even worse, having a measure risks government targeting it. No good policy can come in pursuit of changing that indicator. So what is the good in collecting it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. Yes, I also have no idea how i’d answer such a spiritual health question ( and of course the religion question in the census is voluntary).

      The temptation to target risk is what most worries me about the “sense of belonging “ indicator: wars, for example, tend to strengthen that sense of belonging, at great cost.

      All that said, there are risks around measures such as GDP per capita. Conscription and war, in someone’s country (as nz, aus, and us in World War Two). A reminder that what we want is good policy process, limited government, and keep all indicators in some perspective.


    • Perhaps the lack of understanding of Spiritual Health indicate that we need some new agencies. Maybe a Ministry of Mindfulness.


    • ‘Unipolar’ – a useful word that allowed you to say clearly what bothered me about many of those indicators.

      My computer programming background taught me that reports should only show data that might lead to action. So I get irritated by all the council surveys that ask my ethnic group when by law they cannot act upon that datum. For example the most recent survey asked my opinion of the councils libraries; hopefully they will take my good advice seriously or if my advice was irrational they will ignore it – such a decision should not / must not by law be based on my ethnic group. Many years ago I had to fill in a form to get a season ticket for our local swimming pool; it asked my age and gender which was reasonable and then my ethnic group but it never asked if I could swim let alone whether I was likely to use the diving boards, spa and sauna.


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