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Statistics Minister James Shaw evasive when quizzed on details surrounding the Government Statistician's resignation over the flawed Census

Statistics Minister James Shaw evasive when quizzed on details surrounding the Government Statistician's resignation over the flawed Census

Statistics Minister James Shaw is being coy about the resignation of the Government Statistician and Stats NZ CEO, Liz MacPherson, in the face of criticism from the Opposition that she’s being treated as a scapegoat for his failings.

MacPherson on Tuesday announced her resignation off the back of an independent report on the 2018 Census revealing a response rate of 83% across the population and only 68% among Maori.

The consequence of the low response rate is that there are significant gaps in the data, which are being filled in-part by non-census data.

Asked repeatedly in a press conference whether MacPherson’s resignation was “entirely her decision”, Shaw didn’t give a yes/no answer.

Rather, he responded: “She made the call to resign… I support her decision.”

Asked when MacPherson made the call, in relation to when both her and Shaw received the report, Shaw said: “I don’t know…

“I think that it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment on those conversations.

“You’ve got to know that Liz takes her responsibilities very seriously. And the fact is, she’s been working to remediate it for over a year now.

“I’m sure that her responsibilities have been weighing very heavily on her shoulders that entire time.”

MacPherson, who has been at the helm of Stats NZ for six years, took responsibility for the sub-par Census. 

"Many of the shortfalls identified by the independent reviewers had already been identified by our own internal review processes," she noted.

"Steps have already been taken to address much of what went wrong, and to set out the steps to make sure a 2023 Census is a success."

National’s statistics spokesperson Jian Yang said MacPherson's resignation was "appropriate given how badly Census 2018 was botched".

"But she should not be a scapegoat for James Shaw whose failure to show leadership played a significant part in this mess," he said.

“The Minister needed to be more involved in his department. He should have asked more questions of his Statistics NZ leadership team and demanded better results from them.

“But he chose to be a hands-off Minister instead. He was missing in action when things were going wrong – off on a Pacific Island junket while his officials were left to clean things up.”

Yang said data gaps would create “enormous problems for the billions of dollars in funding for health, education, police and other vital services that depend on reliable Census numbers”.

“This failure also has massive implications for the next election with reliable data required to draw accurate electoral boundaries and decide the number of seats in Parliament.”

The first set of Census data will be released on September 23 - 11 months late. The second set will be published on December 12 and the third set in the new year. 

MacPherson will remain in her Government Statistician role until Christmas.

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NZ's political system is failing itself from top to bottom.

Things are deteriorating faster than anticipated.

Why would you give a Green Party mp the Statistics portfolio?

James Shaw was asked in the press conference something to the tune of whether he had a "business as usual" sort of approach towards his Stats portfolio, while he put more effort into his Climate one. His response was that he was really keen on Stats from the perspective of using different measures, in addition to traditional ones like GDP, to track wellbeing.

Serious question, was she the best candidate for the role?

State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes appointed Liz MacPherson to a second term as Government Statistician, apparently SUBSEQUENT to the SSC knowing about the 2018 Census problem.......

I imagine that Mr Hughes can't be feeling very good about this particular decision.


Shaw is actually very well versed in Statistics ........ or , he should be , given he has a Masters Degree in a field very reliant on data and he likely did a quantitative dissertation which required the use and interpretation of Stats in that dissertation ( if he did one )

Whether he actually has an affinity for Stats is another matter .

Either way , the public servants always take the fall when politicians cock things up

Considering the census plan was entirely developed while National was in government and pretty much locked in at the time of the 2017 election, it's National that should be taking the blame for this, not Shaw.

Why? Adern said the opposition was ready to govern before the last election. They could have postponed it, but with a do nothing govt this would be too much for them as it did not involve increasing taxes.

Statistically speaking, its at least a 50/50 call that she was pushed or fired!

From the Steam Radio news and interviews, it's clear that there was a complete failure to engage with Maori (and, most likely, Pacifica) over the physical Census process. Iwi leaders are rightly noting 'we told ya so'. It's all yet another nail (or, given its visibility to all and sundry, a solid session with a collated-screw gun) in the coffin of Gubmint and Institutional Credibility. Which lack of trust is gonna do no-one much good....

The Greens are a lobby group at best. I think the public is waking up and seeing confusion and lack of leadership and a realalistic forward moving plan.