Charge for the creation of statistics
OIA and Charging Guidelines did not apply to request for statistics that were not held but could be created for a fee—fee for the creation of statistics was calculated in accordance with the agency’s Sales and Pricing Policy and was not unreasonable.
A requester asked Statistics NZ for the numbers of people living on an hourly rate of $13.75, $15 and $16, and the total number of people earning less than $18 per hour. Statistics NZ treated this as a customised data request and calculated a fee of $172.50 for supply of the information, in accordance with its Sales and Pricing Policy. The requester complained to the Ombudsman under the OIA.
The first issue for the Chief Ombudsman was whether this was an OIA charging complaint, or one that had to be considered under the Ombudsmen Act. The Chief Ombudsman asked Statistics NZ whether it held the data at issue or would need to create it.
Statistics NZ explained that the data were sourced from the New Zealand Income Survey (NZIS). However, NZIS earning statistics are produced by average and median only, not by numbers of people earning at set levels. That information would need to be individually produced by an analyst with a high degree of skill and knowledge of the NZIS ‘unit record’, or raw data.
By describing in detail the steps that would be required to produce the information (including data programming and analysis), Statistics NZ was able to satisfy the Chief Ombudsman that this was a case of creation rather than collation of the information, and so the information was not ‘held’ and not available for request under the OIA.
As the OIA did not apply, the Ombudsman considered whether the charge was reasonable in terms of the Ombudsmen Act. The Chief Ombudsman determined that the charge was calculated in accordance with Statistics NZ’s Sales and Pricing Policy, and that it was not unreasonable in the circumstances of this case to recover the full cost of producing the data.
The Chief Ombudsman also asked Statistics NZ whether there was any readily retrievable information that could be supplied to the requester free of charge. Statistics NZ was able to point the requester to published statistics about personal income distribution broken down by weekly personal income. It was also willing to provide information compiled in response to an earlier customised data request for the number of people who were earning the minimum adult wage.
This case note is published under the authority of the Ombudsmen Rules 1989. It sets out an Ombudsman’s view on the facts of a particular case. It should not be taken as establishing any legal precedent that would bind an Ombudsman in future.