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New Zealand

Improving Open Data Access and Principles (NZ0007)



Action Plan: New Zealand Second National Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive


Lead Institution: Land Information New Zealand, Department of Internal Affairs

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Capacity Building, Legislation & Regulation, Open Data, Public Participation, Public Service Delivery

IRM Review

IRM Report: New Zealand End-of-Term Report 2016-2018, New Zealand Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i



Improving open data access and principles We will enhance access to information by reviewing and strengthening the principles under which New Zealand releases open data and information. Objective: To review and strengthen the principles under which New Zealand releases open data and information. Status quo: New Zealand has a set of principles guiding the management of government data and information, including proactive release in reusable formats. But the New Zealand principles lack the 2016 level of specificity in the Open Data Charter for data, and include wider information management principles that are still required. Ambition: New Zealand has fully modernised and world-leading principles for government-held data and information that provide a strong foundation for open access to data and information, building capability for data reuse, improving the openness of government operations and supporting informed participation by citizens in government decisions through the availability of open data.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

3. Improving open data access and practices


Review potential adoption of the International Open Data Charter, using public feedback

Review New Zealand Data and Information Management Principles

Determine what principles will guide release of, and access to, New Zealand open data and information, using public feedback

Engage with citizens and government on application of the new/amended open data principles

Implement new/amended open data principles.

Responsible institution: Land Information New Zealand (Lead from 1 October 2016 – 10 March 2017), Statistics New Zealand (Stats NZ) (Lead from 11 March 2017 onwards)

Supporting institution(s): Department of Internal Affairs

Start date: October 2016 .

End date: June 2018

Context and Objectives

The Declaration on Open and Transparent Government requires agencies to release high-value public data in accordance with policies such as the New Zealand Government Open Access and Licensing (NZGOAL) framework and the New Zealand Data and Information Management Principles.[Note127: ‘Declaration on Open and Transparent Government,’ New Zealand Government, 8 August 2011,] In other words, data must be released in open machine-readable formats, and licensed for legal re-use in accordance with NZGOAL. High value public data is non-personal and unrestricted data that agencies’ stakeholders and users say they wish to re-use for economic, social, cultural or environmental benefit. This means that agencies’ open data release programmes must be based on identified user demand, not on the agencies’ own open data release priorities.

New Zealand has consistently scored well in international open data surveys but has scored quite low on implementation (58% according to the Open Data Barometer)[Note128: Open Data Barometer, accessed 17 January 2018,], partly due to low scores on some of the 15 government datasets assessed internationally by the ODB and the Ministerial and administrative changes affecting New Zealand’s Open Government Information and Data Programme.

The Open Data Charter (ODC) was launched at the October 2015 OGP Summit in Mexico. The six principles of the International Open Data Charter (ODC),[Note129: ‘Principles,’ Open Data Charter, accessed 17 January 2018,] released in 2015, essentially match and update New Zealand’s Data and Information Management Principles, and add principles covering governance and citizen engagement and inclusive development and innovation. They also set out practices and procedures for governments to apply when adopting each ODC principle. But the ODC is limited to data, whereas New Zealand’s principles relate to all government-held information and data, including personal and restricted information. Consequently, any work to adopt the ODC requires parallel work to consider the more broadly-based New Zealand Data and Information Management Principles, the Declaration on Open and Transparent Government, and also any possible impact on the New Zealand Government Open Access and Licensing framework.

The problem is to find a solution that embraces the more comprehensive ODC principles and practices and also retains the broader scope and intent of New Zealand’s principles for managing government-held information. New Zealanders need certainty they can access all the public information resources held by government, not just data.

This commitment looks at adopting the ODC and determining what will be New Zealand’s data and information management principles. Its ambition is to strengthen the principles behind open government data and information release. The activities will be led initially by Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) and then by Stats NZ, following the transfer of New Zealand’s Open Government Information and Data Programme in March 2017. While each of these departments is a leader in government data management and release, neither has held responsibility for New Zealand’s broader cross-government information management policy and there is now uncertainty about the information policy role of the Department of Internal Affairs. It will be necessary for the departments to bring in information policy experts to assist with the broader policy issues in this commitment and to clarify the responsibility.

The commitment is highly specific and meets the OGP values of access to information and civic participation. The government is improving the quality of the data disclosed to the public by reviewing and strengthening New Zealand’s information and data principles. The government also is creating opportunities and capabilities for the public to influence or inform decisions on the ODC and on the content and application of the new or amended principles.

If fully implemented, this commitment would have a minor potential impact. Adopting international data policy and/or updating existing data and information management policy is an incremental change in improve open data access and practices. Updating policy to adopt ODC could potentially act as a major step forward, especially because the ODC principles extend existing policies to improve access to information. For example, Principle Three of ODC releases data ‘free of charge,’ whereas New Zealand’s current policy releases ‘reasonably priced’ data and information.

However, the IRM researcher codes this variable to be minor and not moderate because the policy update could confuse agencies already applying the broader government policy covering all government-held information. Since 2010, the broader principles and procedures New Zealand currently uses to release data and information have been embedded in many government departments and agencies across central and local government, resulting in widespread release of publications, images, reports, etc. as well as data. Because ODC only applies to data, this update could signal a reverse of data and information management policy, if the volume of data and information disclosed is limited.


In March 2017, the New Zealand Government Information and Data Programme moved from LINZ to Stats NZ. Between October 2016 and March 2017, there was a period of uncertainty and inaction while the location of the programme was discussed, its new home agreed and the programme transferred. To accommodate this delay, this commitment’s timeline was officially changed on 30 June 2017, with the final three commitment activities extended to 31 July 2017, 30 August 2017 and June 2018 respectively.[Note130: ’What's happening: 2017,’ Open Government: New Zealand,’ accessed 17 January 2018,] Government explained that the delays were due to ‘the reallocation of Ministerial portfolios, budget timing and transfer of the Open Government Data Programme from LINZ to Stats New Zealand in March this year.’[Note131: Mark Mitchell, ‘Stats NZ takes lead on open data,’ Scoop Independent News, 3 March 2017,] Official consultation on the timeline change was set for 16 June to 29 June 2017.[Note132: ‘Achieving our Open Data Milestones,’ Open Government Partnership: New Zealand, accessed 17 January, 2018,] The actual period was shorter; consultation was announced via Twitter on 20 June, and on the Open New Zealand discussion list on 26 June, and the final decision made on 30 June. The IRM researcher understands there was minimal feedback from the public which is not surprising given the very short timeline.

The first two commitment activities, to review potential adoption of ODC and to review New Zealand Data and Information Management Principles, have been completed. Government consulted the public widely on the ODC and the New Zealand Data and Information Management Principles in August and September 2016, initially as part of the public engagement process to develop the action plan. One workshop in Auckland and two in Wellington sought public feedback on whether to adopt the ODC. There was an invitation from the responsible Minister to participate,[Note133: ‘Have your say on New Zealand’s open data commitments,’ 6 September 2016, New Zealand Government,’s-open-data-commitments.] an open call for participation using social media (Twitter), consultations on the New Zealand government website,, the Open New Zealand discussion list,[Note134: ‘The Open Government Ninjas,’ Open New Zealand, accessed 17 January 2018,] and through the avenues used by Engage. Subsequent activities included a teleconference with respondents who could not attend the workshop and online engagement via the Open New Zealand discussion list.

What has not yet been completed as of 30 June 2017 are two actions: a formal decision on adoption of the ODC, which will guide release of and access to New Zealand data and information, and engagement between citizens and government on the application of new open data principles. Stakeholders interviewed by the IRM researcher expressed frustration that they received no acknowledgement of their submissions and that there has been no progress to address matters they raised, such as updating the pricing policy in the New Zealand Data and Information Management Principles to match the ‘free of charge’ statement in the ODC. Stakeholders are also unclear about which agency has responsibility for leading the wider government-held information policy work.

The adoption of the ODC, determination of any updated principles, engagement with citizens and government, and subsequent implementation of new open data principles will be further reported on in the end-of-term report.

Next Steps

The IRM researcher recommends that this commitment’s activities are completed in the remaining period of the action plan. It is assumed that the delay in adopting the ODC is due to the programme’s transfer to Stats NZ and changes in Ministerial portfolios, and that an announcement is expected soon after 30 June 2017. With respect to the remaining activities, it is recommended that Stats NZ leads a cross-government information management activity to determine any changes or updates to the NZ Data and Information Management Principles following approval of the ODC. This would include engagement with government’s information management community and citizens on any subsequent changes, using the programme’s well-established engagement channels. This would establish consistent practice across the public sector. The finalised principles and their relationship to the ODC would then be presented to government’s Information Group[Note135: ‘Governance and Leadership: Information Group,’ New Zealand Government, 4 September 2017,] for approval ahead of being submitted to Cabinet for approval.

The IRM researcher also recommends a concurrent new activity to clarify the lead agency for developing and updating government-held information and data policy. It is unclear which of government’s functional leaders holds this broader responsibility. Stats NZ’s role as Chief Data Steward is known but appears to exclude government-held information. For example, while Stats NZ is likely to apply updates of the Open Data Charter, what agency will update the NZ Data and Information Management Principles, and other information policies already approved by Cabinet? When this decision is made, the IRM researcher recommends it be announced publicly as well as across government’s own media channels. An example activity could be:

Clarify the functional leadership responsibility for government and information policy development, including appropriate Ministerial and Head of Profession responsibilities. (Start date: January 2018, End date: June 2018).

IRM End of Term Status Summary

3. Improving open data access and practices

Commitment Aim:

This commitment aimed to enhance access to information. It planned to do so by adopting the international Open Data Charter (ODC) and strengthening New Zealand’s open data and information principles in consultation with the public. The government would review the potential adoption of the ODC and the current principles guiding government information and data management in New Zealand. It would then engage with citizens and the government to implement new principles to guide the release of and access to New Zealand open data.


Midterm: Limited

Due to changes in ministerial portfolios and the agency leading this commitment, the end date for Milestones 3-5 was extended to 30 June 2018. At the midterm, the then lead agency, Land Information New Zealand, had consulted widely on the Open Data Charter (ODC) and the New Zealand Data and Information Management Principles (NZDIMP) (Milestones 1-2). However, the government did not make a decision regarding adoption of the ODC or additions or amendments to the NZDIMP (Milestone 3). Milestones 4 and 5 were deferred to the end of the term. The IRM researcher recommended a new, concurrent activity. It suggested the government clarify which government agency has leadership responsibility for developing New Zealand’s government-held information and data policy. For more information, see the 2016–2018 IRM midterm report.  [Note54: “Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM): New Zealand Progress Report 2016–2018,” Open Government Partnership,]

End of term: Complete

Stats NZ completed the commitment at the end of term. In August 2017, New Zealand signed up to the Open Data Charter (ODC) and officially adopted it in March 2018 (Milestone 1). [Note55: “New Zealand Adopts International Open Data Charter,”, 2 March 2018,; see Cabinet paper noting it is consistent with the existing Declaration on Open and Transparent Government and the New Zealand Data and Information Management Principles:] Stats NZ updated the open data action plan with specific time-bound activities for applying the ODC principles and tracking progress. [Note56: “New Zealand Open Data Action Plan,” Stats NZ, 2 March 2018,] Its first report in June 2018 revealed progress in developing data inventories and working with data champions in government agencies. The report also highlighted progress in facilitating extensive training and meetings in main centres and increasing disclosure of open data on the website (Milestones 4 and 5). [Note57: “Open Data Implementation Plan Progress Report,” Open Data,,, accessed 6 August 2018.]

In June 2018, Stats NZ released a draft overview of New Zealand’s 2010 Data and Information Management Principles (DIMP). The draft describes these and the government’s other information-related principles (Milestones 2-3). [Note58: “An Overview of New Zealand Data and Information Principles,” Policies, Manage Data,, ] The document also sought feedback from the public and government officials on whether there are other principles or frameworks that need to be included in the draft overview (Milestone 3). [Note59: Jocelyn Morrison, “How Could We Improve Our Guides on Data and Information Principles?” Loomio,, accessed 17 November 2018.]

Technically, the government completed all of this commitment’s milestones. However, the government did not update its 2010 policy principles for all government-held information (including data on personal and restricted information). This means that the ODC and DIMP have conflicting principles about charging for information. Further, the DIMP lacks principles covering governance and citizen engagement, innovation, and sustainable development. The government has advised the IRM that “at this stage there is no plan to revise or add to the existing NZDIMP.” [Note60: SSC email to OGP responding to the draft OGP IRM end-of-term report, 20 December 2018.]

Did It Open Government?
Access to Information: Marginal
Civic Participation: Marginal

With respect to access to information, the government released more open data. It added 656 new datasets to the directory in 2016–2017 and 821 in 2017­–2018. Fifty-one percent of the 2016–2017 additions and 90 percent of the 2017–2018 additions were geospatial. These datasets mostly constituted large releases of local governments’ open geospatial data. [Note61: Email to the IRM researcher from Paul Stone, Open Government data lead, 16 August 2018.] One regular user informed the IRM researcher that data practices have improved, especially for geospatial data. [Note62: Email correspondence with Harkanwal Singh, Elements Data Studio, 12 July 2018.] The machine-readable, geolocated, and daily updated Family Services Directory, first published in September 2017, stands as an example of improved data practices. [Note63: “Family Services Directory,” Ministry of Social Development, Organisations,,, accessed 12 August 2018. This is updated using the Service Registration Pipeline.]

Overall progress opening up government’s non-geospatial public data is slow. For example, the Earthquake-Prone Buildings Register, the Drinking Water Register for New Zealand, and Drinking Water Online each contain official information on very topical New Zealand matters. However, the relevant departments have not made them available as open data. [Note64: “Register of Earthquake-Prone Buildings,”; “Drinking-Water Register for New Zealand,” Institute of Environmental Science and Research,”; “Drinking Water for New Zealand,”, all accessed 13 August 2018.] Given the short time frame since adoption of the ODC, improvements, leadership, and behavioural change due to its adoption are not yet evident.

The Open Data Barometer 2017 results confirm New Zealand’s high ranking for most of the government datasets the barometer assesses. However, the country has continued to have low scores for government expenditure data, the company register, national environmental statistics, and public contracts. These scores attest to the small amount of progress in improving the format of these datasets during the implementation of this action plan. [Note65: “New Zealand,” Open Data Barometer,]

With respect to civic participation, engagement with New Zealand’s open data community across metropolitan areas has increased since Stats NZ started leading the government’s open data activities. With this engagement, 182 new members across four New Zealand cities signed up to attend meetups. [Note66: “Open Data Implementation Plan Progress Report,” Open Government Data Programme,,, accessed 9 October 2018.] The global Open Data Charter team has noted that New Zealand is the only government to have created its open data action plan as a living document. The government makes the document open to ongoing input from the public, and it has committed to regular iterations of the plan.

Carried Forward?

The government has not yet decided who has responsibility for the development and implementation of information policy across all government agencies. On 6 August 2018, officials stated that this matter is still under discussion. [Note67: Meeting at the SSC with government officials that have responsibility for the action plan commitments, 6 August 2018.] The IRM researcher recommends that this responsibility be clarified and that work to address the policy conflicts be undertaken. A former senior New Zealand government official endorses these recommendations. These actions would acknowledge information-related policy issues raised by civil society at the workshops to develop the third action plan. [Note68: John Roberts, chief privacy officer and archivist of Ontario, Canada, 11 November 2018; see flipcharts at ]


  1. Engagement with Parliament

    NZ0012, 2018, Capacity Building

  2. Youth Parliament

    NZ0013, 2018, Capacity Building

  3. School Leavers' Toolkit

    NZ0014, 2018, Capacity Building

  4. Making New Zealand’S Secondary Legislation Readily Accessible

    NZ0015, 2018, E-Government

  5. Public Participation in Policy Development

    NZ0016, 2018, Capacity Building

  6. Service Design

    NZ0017, 2018, Capacity Building

  7. Official Information

    NZ0018, 2018, Legislation & Regulation

  8. Review of Government Use of Algorithms

    NZ0019, 2018, Science & Technology

  9. Data Practice Transparency

    NZ0020, 2018, Capacity Building

  10. Monitoring Information Management Practice

    NZ0021, 2018, Legislation & Regulation

  11. Open Data Government Organizations

    NZ0022, 2018, E-Government

  12. Open Procurement

    NZ0023, 2018, E-Government

  13. Open Budget

    NZ0005, 2016, Capacity Building

  14. Improving Official Information Practices

    NZ0006, 2016, Capacity Building

  15. Improving Open Data Access and Principles

    NZ0007, 2016, Capacity Building

  16. Tracking Progress and Outcomes of Open Government Data Release

    NZ0008, 2016, Capacity Building

  17. Ongoing Engagement for OGP

    NZ0009, 2016, Capacity Building

  18. Starred commitment Improving Access to Legislation

    NZ0010, 2016, Capacity Building

  19. Improving Policy Practices

    NZ0011, 2016, Capacity Building

  20. BPS Result 10 – New Zealanders Can Complete Their Transactions with the Government Easily in a Digital Environment

    NZ0001, 2014, E-Government

  21. ICT Strategy Action 13 – Open by Default: Active Re-use of Information Assets

    NZ0002, 2014, Capacity Building

  22. National Integrity System Assessment

    NZ0003, 2014, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  23. The Kia TūTahi Relationship Accord

    NZ0004, 2014, Capacity Building

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