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Cloud hangs over Statistics NZ neutrality

Phil Twyford
Building and Construction Spokesperson

8 November 2011

Cloud hangs over Statistics NZ neutrality

If any government department must be squeaky clean in terms of political neutrality at all times, it should be Statistics New Zealand, says Labour’s Building and Construction spokesperson Phil Twyford.

“It is even more crucial that this is the case during an election campaign,” Phil Twyford said.

“Voters have a right to be able to rely on the accuracy of the numbers Stats produces. They certainly do not expect these numbers to be massaged in a way that tells a more favourable story for the Government of the day.

“That is certainly what appears to have happened, however, with the release of the building consent figures for September,” Phil Twyford said.

“There was a large slump in consents in September this year compared to September last year ---- seasonally adjusted figures fell 17 per cent, including apartments, and fell 14 per cent when apartments are excluded --- but the headline on the Statistics NZ press release read: Trends for new home approvals continue to rise.

“Talk about spin!” Phil Twyford said. “Stats NZ’s enthusiasm could perhaps be excused in less partisan times, but during an election period when National is patting itself on the back for doing as good a job as anyone could in terms of keeping the economy ticking over, it is impossible not to see a lack of neutrality in the department’s media release.

“Stats NZ says it didn’t want to make the figures look worse than what they actually are.

“Well, there are other ways of doing that instead of trying to make a 17 per cent decline look like an increase,” Phil Twyford said.

“That’s the sort of behaviour you expect from a John Key or Steven Joyce. It’s not what you expect of an organisation that has always --- until now --- prided itself on being fiercely independent of political bias.

“It is inexcusable for Statistics New Zealand to give even the appearance of bias during an election campaign,” Phil Twyford said.

ENDS

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