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3 Proposed data integration

Purpose and objectives

The purpose of the data integration, in which Statistics NZ will work with the Ministry for the Environment (MfE), is to provide new insights into relationships between agricultural land use and freshwater quality in New Zealand. This will be achieved by producing regional and national indicators for agricultural land use changes and freshwater quality changes and will be published on the condition we can preserve the confidentiality of individual farms.

The objective of this work is to bring together a number of data sources to provide new insights into agricultural land use and freshwater quality changes in New Zealand.

The integrations will create a spatial map of New Zealand’s farms, and utilise information on various farm outputs and farm proximity to known river, lake, and groundwater quality and assess the water quality changes that have shown improvements and those that have declined.

This data integration will explore if there are statistically robust relationships, such as patterns of change or likely impacts between agricultural land use and freshwater quality changes in New Zealand.

The output will help Statistics NZ and MfE meet the reporting needs of the Environmental Reporting Bill and the information will be published in the first Freshwater Domain Report (due in 2016) or sooner if results are ready ahead of the report.

The report will be jointly produced by Statistics NZ and MfE.

Expected benefits 

This data integration demonstrates Statistics NZ’s commitment to inter-agency collaboration in order to produce new information from existing data, within the legal bounds of all agencies involved. It also provides positive evidence of Statistics NZ’s leadership role within the Official Statistics System.

As a result of this data integration, stakeholders, including government agencies, local authorities, Māori, farmers, farmer organisations, media, politicians, and environment advocacy organisations, will have better information on which to base decisions relating to fresh water. Water quality monitoring agencies and policy makers will also be able to make more informed decisions on agricultural land use and water quality policy and practices.

This data integration and its information outcomes also better enable Statistics NZ and the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) to meet their reporting requirements under the Environmental Reporting Bill (currently before the House) and expected to pass into law before the end of 2015.

These legislative requirements will include regular reporting on New Zealand’s environment. A report on one of five domains (air, atmosphere and climate, fresh water, land, and marine) will be released every six months. It will report on the state of, and pressures on, the environment, as well as the impacts that changes in the state might be having on society and the economy.

A synthesis report analysing trends across all the domains will be published every three years. The legislation will make the Secretary for the Environment and the Government Statistician responsible for the production and publication of environmental reports.

Priority

The overall priority of this data integration is high as:

  • It helps Statistics NZ and MfE meet the reporting needs of the Environmental Reporting Bill.
  • This data-matching exercise is strategically aligned with Statistics NZ’s vision for adding value to New Zealand’s most important data.
  • It accords with the New Zealand government’s integrated data eco-system, data and information policies, and Statistics NZ’s Data Integration Policy.

Process

The data integration described in this privacy impact assessment (PIA) will be a three stage process undertaken to provide new insights into agricultural land use and freshwater quality changes in New Zealand.

Prior to the first stage, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) will prepare a dataset by combining three databases of farm information. These three databases are: 

  •  MPI’s farm database (FarmsOnLine)
  • AgriBase® (licensed to MfE for the specific purpose(s) of modelling and reporting on water quality and flows and the pressures on water quality and flows throughout New Zealand)
  • Land Information New Zealand (land parcel data).

This dataset, which uses names and addresses, will be used to start the three stage programme of work:

  • Stage 1, undertaken at Statistics NZ by seconded Ministry for the Environment (MfE) and Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) staff, matches the combined dataset with Statistics NZ’s Agricultural production survey (APS) using names and addresses. At the end of stage 1 we will have a new dataset of farm location, size, and production data in the form of a spatial map of farms in the APS for 1996–2014. The dataset will no longer include names and addresses but will have a farm location identifier associated with each farm.
  • Stage 2, undertaken by MfE researchers (within the terms of s37C of the Statistics Act 1975) in a secure environment operated under Statistics NZ Data Lab conditions, located within MfE, will use the dataset produced in stage 1 to undertake modelling to achieve ‘full coverage of farms in NZ’. Using the farm location identifier, data will be modelled to produce estimates of nutrient loss and waste to pasture for every farm, resulting in estimates of impacts on each farm of:
    • nitrate leached
    • phosphorus applied
    • nitrogen applied
    • faecal dry matter produced
    • irrigated area
    • harvested exotic forest area.

The farm identifier allows the data to be matched to a location. These locations are ‘land parcels’ which will then be aggregated into the geographic areas or regions that will be published. At the end of stage 2, the farm cannot be identified by owner, occupier, or address. Only the location of the farm and its outputs can be identified. 

  • Stage 3, undertaken by researchers from NIWA (within the terms of s37C of the Statistics Act 1975) under secure environment conditions located at Statistics NZ, Christchurch will map the output from stage 2 onto known information for river, lake, and groundwater quality. Water quality changes over time are measured primarily in terms of nitrogen and phosphorus content, water clarity, and E. coli concentration, and allow for river flow by measuring the rate of flow from mountain to sea, and water taken for irrigation. Once the farm and its location in relation to rivers, lakes, and groundwater has been established, the farm’s identifier and land parcel identifier is removed as Statistics NZ’s confidentiality provisions are applied. The farm outputs are summarised by river catchments and river catchments are further summarised by regions. As a result, no farm will be identifiable in published results. The database the researchers will use for stage 3 will not contain individual farm identifiers, but will contain land parcel identifiers (ie the spatial units into which individual farms are placed). Staff will not be able to deconstruct the farms within these parcels back to original names and addresses.

At the end of stage 2, a dataset will be retained by Statistics NZ to allow, if required, Statistics NZ or MfE staff (employed to undertake stage 2) to quality assure the source and input data when final outputs from stage 3 are known. In stage 3 land parcels are aggregated into geographic regions, or areas that ensure no individual farm can be identified in published results. Publication is at the sole discretion of Statistics NZ and this information will be published in the first Freshwater Domain Report due in 2016, or sooner if results are ready well ahead of the report.

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