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Business Operations Survey: 2011
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  13 April 2012
Data quality

Period-specific information
This section contains data information that has changed since the last release. 

General information
This section contains information that does not change between releases.

Period-specific information

Reference period

The survey was posted out in August 2011 and collected information for the last financial year for which the business had data available at that point.

Effect of Canterbury earthquakes

The Business Operations Survey 2011 was the first collection since the September 2010 and February 2011 Canterbury earthquakes. A small number of units in the sample were affected by at least one earthquake. Response rates from Christchurch were checked to see if they differed from the population as a whole. No significant difference was found.

Response rate

The Business Operations Survey 2011 targeted an 80 percent response rate. The survey achieved an actual response rate of 81.1 percent, which represented 5,352 businesses. The final estimated population size was 35,499 enterprises.

Interpreting the data

Sampling errors

Most of the tables in this release contain percentages of the total number of New Zealand businesses within each size and industry. The absolute sampling errors for the overall New Zealand business population are presented in the following table (table 1.01). These errors should be used as a guide for judging the reliability of figures contained in the Excel tables that accompany this release. Table 1.01 should only be used on the overall estimates that are percentages of the different types of businesses mentioned below

Table 1.01

 Sample errors for Business Operations Survey 2011
   Size of estimate (percentage)
 1 2 3 5 10 20 30  50 70 80 90 95 97 98 99
 Sampling error
 All businesses 0.5 0.6 0.8 1.0 1.4 1.8 2.1  2.3 2.1 1.8 1.4 1.0 0.8 0.6 0.5
 Innovators 0.6 0.9 1.1 1.4 1.9 2.6 3.0 3.2 3.0 2.6 1.9 1.4 1.1 1.9 0.6
 Current overseas income 0.9 1.2 1.5 1.9 2.6 3.5 4.0 4.4 4.0 3.5 2.6 1.9 1.5 1.2 0.9
 No current overseas income 0.5 0.8 0.9 1.2 1.6 2.1 2.5 2.7 2.5 2.1 1.6 1.2 0.9 0.8 0.5

Table 1.02 presents the sample errors for the different size and industry groups in the survey. This table should only be used on the overall estimates that are percentages of all New Zealand businesses.

Table 1.02

Business Operations Survey 2011 sample errors by size and industry 
Business size or industry category  Estimate size (percent)
 1 5 20 50 
Sampling error 
Business size      
6–19 employees  0.6   1.3  2.4  3.0
20–49 employees  0.7  1.5  2.8  3.5
50–99 employees  0.4  0.8  1.4  1.8
100+ employees  0.4  0.9  1.7  2.2
Agriculture, forestry, & fishing  1.3  2.8  5.1  6.4
Agriculture 1.8 3.9 7.1 8.9
Commercial fishing 1.6 3.4 6.2 7.8
Forestry and logging 2.0 4.4 8.1 10.2
Agriculture, forestry, and fishing support services 1.6 3.4 6.2 7.8
Mining  1.4  3.0  5.5  6.9
Manufacturing   0.6  1.4  2.6  3.2
     Food, beverage, & tobacco  1.7  3.7  6.8  8.5
     Textile, clothing, footwear, & leather  1.6  3.6  6.6  8.3
     Wood & paper product  2.1  4.7  8.5  10.7
     Printing, publishing, & recorded media  1.7  3.8  7.0  8.8
     Petroleum, coal, chemical, & associated product  1.9  4.2  7.7  9.6
     Non-metallic mineral product  1.9  4.1  7.5  9.4
     Metal product  1.8  4.0  7.4  9.3
     Transport & industrial machinery & equipment  1.8  3.9  7.1  8.9
     Other machinery & equipment  1.6  3.6  6.5  8.2
     Other manufacturing  1.9  4.1  7.6  9.5
Electricity, gas, water, & waste services  1.0  2.2  4.1  5.1
Construction  1.9  4.1  7.4  9.3
Wholesale trade  1.4  3.1  5.7  7.1
     Machinery & equipment wholesaling  1.8  3.9  7.2  9.0
     Other wholesale trade  1.9  4.2  7.7  9.6
Retail trade  1.8  3.9  7.2  9.0
Accommodation & food services  2.1  4.5  8.2  10.3
Transport, postal, & warehousing  1.9  4.2  7.7  9.7
Information media & telecommunications  1.1  2.4  4.4  5.5
     Publishing  1.7  3.8  7.0  8.7
     Motion picture  2.2  4.8  8.0  11.0
     Telecommunications  1.3  2.8  5.4  6.4
Financial & insurance services  1.1  2.4  4.3  5.4
     Finance  0.7  1.6  2.9  3.7
     Insurance  1.4  3.0  5.5  6.9
     Auxiliary  1.8  3.9  7.1  8.9
Rental, hiring, & real estate services  2.3  5.1  9.4  11.7
Professional, scientific, & technical services  1.4  3.0  5.6  7.0
     Computer systems design  1.7  3.7  6.7  8.4
     Other professional scientific  1.6  3.5  6.6  8.2
Administrative & support services  1.2  2.6  4.8  6.0
Education & training  1.7  3.7  7.0  8.7
Health care & social assistance  1.4  3.1  5.7  7.1
Arts & recreation services  1.9  4.2  7.7  9.7
Other services  1.9  4.1  7.6  9.4
Overall  0.5  1.0  1.8  2.3

The sampling errors provided in tables 1.01 and 1.02 are measured at the 95 percent confidence level.

How to use the sampling errors

For example, the estimated number of businesses in New Zealand with export sales in 2011 is 18 percent. This estimate is subject to a sampling error of approximately plus or minus 1.8. This means that 95 percent of the possible samples of the same size will produce an estimate between: 18 - 1.8 and 18 + 1.8, that is, between 16.2 and 19.8.

For example, the estimated number of businesses in the agriculture, forestry, and fishing industry with export sales in 2011 is 30 percent. This estimate is subject to a sampling error of approximately plus or minus 5.9. This means that 95 percent of the possible samples of the same size will produce an estimate between: 30 - 5.9 and 30 + 5.9, that is, between 24.1 and 35.9.

The sampling errors detailed in table 1.02 only show the sample errors for some estimates. This is because sample errors for estimates higher than 50 percent mirror those below 50 percent. For example, an estimate of 30 percent of businesses will have the same sample error as an estimate of 70 percent.

For more information refer to sampling errors under general information.

Consistency with other periods

The modular structure of the Business Operations Survey means its content changes each year as results are released. Statistics NZ works with other organisations to develop the mix of content for this survey. Table 1.03 shows how these groups contributed to the development of the survey.

Table 1.03

 Business Operations Survey Module Structure
  Module content 
 Module A   Module B  Module C   Module D
 2005  Business operations Innovation  Business practices   N/A
 2006  Business operations ICT  Employment practices   N/A
 2007  Business operations  Innovation  International engagement   N/A 
 2008  Business operations ICT   Business strategy and skills  N/A
 2009  Business operations  Innovation  Business practices   N/A 
 2010 Business operations ICT   Price and wage setting  Financing 
 2011  Business operations  Innovation  International engagement  N/A
Note: ICT – Information and communication technology; N/A – Not applicable

Table 1.04

Contribution to content
 MED  MSI  DOL Treasury NZTE ComCom RBNZ  Vic Uni 
 2005  Y  Y  Y  Y  N  N  N  N
 2006  Y  N  Y  Y  N  N  N  N
 2007  Y  Y  N  Y  Y  Y  N  N
 2008  Y  Y  Y  Y  N  N  N  N
 2009  Y  Y  N  N  N  N  N  N
 2010  Y  N  N  N  N  N  Y  Y
 2011  Y  Y  N  N  N  N  N  N
 Note: Y – Yes; N – No; N/A – Not applicable; MED – Ministry of Economic Development; MSI – Ministry of Science and Innovation, previously the Ministry of Research, Science & Technology; DOL – Department of Labour; NZTE – New Zealand Trade & Enterprise; ComCom – Commerce Commission; RBNZ – Reserve Bank of New Zealand; Vic Uni – Victoria University

In addition, each module in the survey has its own specific objectives. The modules included in the Business Operations Survey 2011 and their objectives are listed below.

Module A: Business operations

This module aims to provide a longitudinal series of information relating to business performance. This will assist in the development of models aimed at investigating causal relationships. As well as traditional measures of performance such as turnover and profitability, there is also a need to collect information on such areas as export intensity. The purpose of collecting business environmental information is to analyse any relationships between the environment in which a business operates and the results it achieves.

Module B: Innovation

Module B alternates between innovation (in odd years) and information and communication technology (ICT) (in even years). The objective of the innovation module is to provide information on the characteristics of innovation in New Zealand's private-sector businesses. This information will enable the development of policy that will facilitate innovation, and understand the dynamics of innovative businesses. The innovation module runs every two years, and replaced Statistics NZ's former Innovation Survey, last run in 2003. The module was designed in accordance with OECD guidelines to develop an understanding of the contribution of all aspects of innovation to the New Zealand economy by measuring:

  • levels of firm innovation
  • how and why firms collaborate with other firms and institutions in order to innovate
  • factors affecting the ability of firms to innovate
  • outcomes of innovation for firms, including its effect on exports.

The product development expenditure question was modified in 2011 to make it clearer that only expenditure on product development should be included. The question asks respondents ‘For the last financial year, please estimate this business’s combined expenditure on product development and related activities’. The expenditure is broken down into these categories:

  • research and development
  • design
  • marketing and market research
  • other expenditure

The words ‘(for product development)’ were added to the marketing and market research category in 2011. There was a significant drop in the expenditure in this category in 2011, and in the overall expenditure on product development and related activities. A selection of respondents were contacted to verify what their figures for both years included. It was found that in 2009, most respondents were recording their full expenditure on marketing and market research. In 2011, they were only recording their product development expenditure on marketing and market research. This means the 2009 and 2011 figures are not comparable. Statistics NZ estimates that if the questionnaire wording was the same in 2009 and 2011, expenditure on marketing and market research would be at a similar level in both years. Therefore, the estimated total expenditure on product development and related activities in 2009 would be approximately $1.8 billion. This is considerably lower than the figure of $2.3 billion for 2009 reported in table 34 of the 2011 detailed tables.

Module C: International engagement

This module covers data previously collected in 2007, regarding the characteristics and strategies towards international engagement undertaken by New Zealand businesses. The 2011 results cannot be compared with the results in the International Engagement by New Zealand Businesses report, due to the change in the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) (more information can be found in ‘Industry classification change’).

The international engagement module for 2011 differs slightly from the international engagement module in 2007, in order to obtain more relevant information. However, for the majority of variables, the 2011 results can be directly compared with the 2007 results in the tables accompanying this release.

The objectives of this module echo and extend upon those of the overall survey. The module collects information on a range of practices and behaviours associated with either current, past, or future international engagement which may have either positive or negative impacts on a business's performance. This module has topics that measure:

  • current overseas income
  • previous overseas income
  • future generation of overseas income
  • overseas production of goods and services
  • purchases from overseas.

A diagram showing some key results from the module can be found in the 'Downloads' box of this release. A link to the survey questionnaire can be found in the Related links section.

Industry classification change

The 2007 survey design used both ANZSIC96 and ANZSIC06 classifications, allowing results to be produced on both classifications. The 2007 international engagement results for this release have been produced on the new ANZSIC06 classification to allow comparison with the 2011 results (which are also on ANZSIC06 basis). However, the 2007 International Engagement by New Zealand Businesses report has information from the international engagement module using the ANZSIC96 classification. The different classifications mean that results in the two publications cannot be directly compared with each other.

General information

Data source

For New Zealand's economic performance to be measured against initiatives aimed at increases in economic growth, data of a variety of measures needs to be collected.

Because of the large range of data needed, Statistics NZ developed an integrated, modular survey – the Business Operations Survey – as a way of collecting the required information while minimising the reporting load for New Zealand businesses. The survey was designed to include a range of ‘modules’ and has been run annually by Statistics NZ since 2005.

The Business Operations Survey was a postal survey. Initial contact was made to key and/or complex businesses in the survey by telephone, before the mail-out, to determine the appropriate person(s) within the business to whom the survey questions could be directed. For all other businesses, the survey form was addressed to the managing director. The survey was posted out in August and collected information for the last financial year for which the business had data available at that point.

Population and sample selection

The target population for the Business Operations Survey was live enterprise units on Statistics NZ’s Business Frame that at the population selection date:

  • were economically significant enterprises (those that have an annual GST turnover figure of greater than $30,000)
  • had six or more employees
  • had been operating for one year or more
  • were classified to ANZSIC06 codes as ‘in scope’ in list 1 below
  • were private enterprises as defined by New Zealand Institutional Sector 1996 Classification (NZISC96) as in list 2 below.

An enterprise is defined as a business or service entity operating in New Zealand, such as a company, partnership, trust, government department or agency, state-owned enterprise, university, or self-employed individual.

List 1 – ANZSIC 06 codes
ANZSIC06 code – description
A – Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
B – Mining
C – Manufacturing
D – Electricity, gas, water, and waste services
E – Construction
F – Wholesale trade
G – Retail trade
H – Accommodation and food services
I – Transport, postal ,and warehousing
J – Information media and telecommunications
K – Financial and insurance services
L – Rental, hiring, and real estate services
M – Professional, scientific, and technical services
N – Administrative and support services
P – Education and training
Q – Health care and social assistance
R91 – Sport and recreation activities
R92 – Gambling activities
S94 – Repair and maintenance.

Out of scope
O – Public administration and safety
R89 – Heritage activities
R90 – Creative and performing arts activities
S95 – Personal and other services
S96 – Private household employing staff and undifferentiated goods and service
producing activities of households for own use

List 2 – NZISC96 codes
NZISC96 code – description
1111 – Private corporate producer enterprises
1121 – Private non-corporate producer enterprises
1211 – Producer boards
1311 – Central government enterprises
2211 – Private registered banks
2221 – Private other broad money (M3) depository organisations
2291 – Private other depository organisations nec
2311 – Private other financial organisations excluding insurance and pension funds
2411 – Private insurance and pension funds.

Out of scope
1321 – Local government enterprises
21 – Central bank
2212, 2213, 2222, 2223, 2292, 2293, 2312, 2313, 2412, 2413 – Central and local government financial intermediaries
3 – General government
4 – Private non-profit organisations serving households
5 – Households
6 – Rest of world

Sample design

The sample design was a two-level stratification according to ANZSIC industry and employment size groups. This information was obtained using enterprise ANZSIC industry and employment information from Statistics NZ's Business Frame.

The first level of stratification was 36 ANZSIC groupings. Within each of the ANZSIC groups there is a further stratification by employment size group. The four employment size groups used in the sample design are:

  • 6–19 employees (small)
  • 20–29 employees (medium 1)
  • 30–49 employees (medium 2)
  • 50 or more employees (large).

The two medium groups have been amalgamated, and the large size group further broken down for this publication, as these businesses were of particular interest for some of the results.

The survey has been designed to produce aggregate statistics at a national level. This design does not facilitate statistics to be produced at a regional level.

Interpreting the data

Unit non-response

Unit (or complete) non-response occurs when units in the sample do not return the questionnaire. The initial selection weight of the remaining units in the stratum was adjusted to account for the unit non-response (no item non-response imputation would occur for the units that did not return the questionnaire).

Item non-response

Item (or partial) non-response is when units return the questionnaire but some questions are not answered. No item non-response imputation was carried out for units that did not answer 60 percent or more of the questions they were required to answer (based on questionnaire routing rules). The respondents who did not meet this criterion were classified as unit non-responses and the weights were adjusted accordingly.

Imputation of numeric questions

The imputation methods used were weighted mean imputation and donor imputation. Using the weighted mean method, a weighted mean was calculated from linked responding units for each numeric linecode within each imputation cell. Non-responding units were then imputed with the weighted mean for their imputation cell. Weighted mean imputation was used to impute totals.

Donor imputation randomly selected a donor from within each imputation cell. The non-respondent was then imputed with the value(s) from the donor. Donor imputation was used to impute components and percentages so that the distribution was maintained.

Imputation of categoric variables

For categoric imputation the method used was nearest neighbour imputation, which involved finding a donor with the most similar responses. The donor supplied responses for all categoric variables requiring imputation. If the donor unit did not respond to any of the variables requiring a response, then we chose the next best donor to supply this information. This was continued until all the variables had a response.

Accuracy of the data

Treatment of sub-industries

The sub-industries presented in this release (indented industries in the tables) should be treated with caution since they have higher sample errors than those mentioned in Table 1.02. Disaggregation of sub-industries results in some loss of data quality because the sample design is based on 1 digit ANZSIC industries.

The Business Operations Survey results are subject to measurement errors, including both non-sample and sample errors. These errors should be considered when analysing the results from the survey.

Non-sample errors

Non-sample errors include mistakes by respondents when completing questionnaires, variation in the respondents’ interpretation of the questions asked, and errors made during the processing of the data. In addition, the survey applied imputation methodologies to cope with non-respondents. Statistics NZ adopts procedures to minimise these types of error, but they may still occur and are not quantifiable.

Given the nature of the data collected, there are limitations on the level of accuracy that can be expected from the survey. Businesses’ records may not be kept in the form required for the survey and some estimation by the respondent may be required.

Sampling errors

The estimates in this report are based on a sample of business. Somewhat different figures might have been obtained if a complete census of the entire business population had been taken using the same questionnaire and processing methods etc. Because the estimates are based on a sample of businesses, all estimates have a sampling error associated with them. The variability of a survey estimate, due to the random nature of the sample selection process, is measured by its sampling error.

Sampling errors vary from estimate to estimate, and with population breakdown and population size. Exact sampling errors can be produced for each variable within the Business Operations Survey upon request if required.

Consistency with other periods or datasets

Industry classification change

From 2008, the design of the survey was updated to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification 2006 (ANZSIC06). See the technical notes of the Business Operations Survey: 2008 for more information about this classification change.

Information collected

Due to the modular nature of the survey, there is different data released each year from the Businesses Operations Survey. Where possible, the current information has been compared with the most recent data from previous iterations of the surveys.

Research and Development Survey

It should be noted that results on research and development from the Business Operations Survey differ slightly from those from the Research and Development Survey because of differences in sample selection, target population, and reporting periods. 


While all care and diligence has been used in processing, analysing, and extracting data and information in this publication, Statistics NZ gives no warranty it is error-free and will not be liable for any loss or damage suffered by the use directly, or indirectly, of the information in this publication.


Timed statistical releases are delivered using postal and electronic services provided by third parties. Delivery of these releases may be delayed by circumstances outside the control of Statistics NZ. Statistics NZ accepts no responsibility for any such delays.

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