Indicators Working Group

Investigating the use of indicators to help the primary and public sector meet local, national and international reporting requirements

Project Details Ngā taipitopito

Project Status:
Challenge funding:
Research duration:
April 2017 – August 2019

Collaborators Ngā haumi

AgResearch | Beef + Lamb NZ | DairyNZ | Department of Internal Affairs | Greater Wellington Regional Council | Lincoln University | Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research | MBIE | Ministry for the Environment | MPI | New Zealand Institute of Primary Industries | Plant & Food Research | PwC New Zealand | Ruapehu District Council | Scion | St Andrews Prebyterian Church Te Kuiti | Statistics New Zealand | Tararua Rural Education Activities Programme | Treasury | Waikato District Council

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What are we doing?E aha ana mātou?

Indicators are used by the primary sector to benchmark elements of performance, such as water and chemical use, and track progress towards goals. Local and central governments use indicators to set policy and measure against targets.

The Indicators Working Group’s role was to assemble, synthesise and publish information about indicators. It reviewed existing agri-environmental indicator initiatives and their use, identified gaps, and investigated the use of indicators for monitoring and evaluating land and water values. The aim was to find the right indicators and enable and support their use.

This research will help the primary and public sector meet local, national and international reporting requirements, and solve problems resulting from overlapping information needs and multiple ways of measuring.

The Indicators Working Group worked extensively with local and central government, industry groups, non-governmental and research organisations, scientists and representatives of rural communities to develop and promote the use of indicators.

How can the research be used? Ka pēhea e whai take ai te rangahau?

  • The work of this group has shown that although indicator information can be incomplete and imperfect, there is enough current information to support changes in policy, production and marketing practices.
  • This research provided a method to measure community resilience at a point in time using Statistics NZ data, enabling better understanding of the resilience of rural New Zealand.
  • The Indicators Working Group (IWG) tested a framework to measure resilience in 5 dimensions: social, economic, cultural, environmental and institutional.
  • The IWG worked with Treasury, Statistics NZ, MFAT and MPI. Researchers participated in The Treasury’s Wellbeing Group, which shares information with 14 public sector agencies and private sector organisations about wellbeing, sustainability and resilience indicators.
  • The IWG worked with the Sustainability Dashboard programme to describe using indicators in online ‘dashboard’ visualisations to show how producers are farming sustainably.
  • Researchers worked with the Greater Wellington Regional Council to improve their environmental monitoring programme by better integrating the collection of scientific data with the policy process.
  • The IWG prompted discussions at the Ministry for the Environment on how the Ministry’s monitoring might fit into a wider monitoring system, which included discussions with several regional councils on a shared environmental monitoring system.
  • This research produced a proof-of-concept dataset that is publicly available on, demonstrating the possibility of hosting research data for general access on a public data repository.

Participation & engagement Te hunga i whai wāhi mai

  • Workshops were held in Huntly, Taumarunui, Te Kuiti, Dannevirke and Masterton, with people who have views on rural resilience, including farmers, teachers, local government, nurses, social workers, church and business leaders. Data was gathered for analysing possible thresholds for community resilience and assessing resilience. This information was reported to the Minister for Statistics James Shaw and shared with the Ministry for Primary Industries, Statistics NZ and The Treasury.
  • The IWG worked with the Resilient Rural Communities programme in AgResearch to conduct workshops with rural communities and deliver results of the research to the TempAg international research network. The research has been circulated to the Government and was the basis of advice to government regarding the 1 Billion Trees programme and the M. bovis eradication effort.
  • The IWG held participatory design workshops with government, industry and research stakeholder to develop indicators for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The indicators are informing analysis of potential pathways for achieving these goals. The work informed advice to Statistics NZ during the Indicators Aotearoa consultation process.
  • Multiple workshops with local and central government, industry groups, non-governmental and research organisations have informed 7 individual reports focused on understanding how indicators are being used, and how they could be used to influence land use practice and meet New Zealand’s international obligations.

Research team Te hunga i whai wāhi mai

Research Lead
Bill Kaye-Blake
Vicki Compton
Penny Payne
Margaret Brown
Caroline Saunders
Lincoln Universtiy

Tools & resources Ngā utauta me ngā rauemi

Journal Article

Resilience is a meaningful, measurable trait of communities

Community resilience can be quantified using available data to inform policy decisions. Identifying vulnerable or deprived communities in New Zealand is straightforward because social, cultural…
View Journal Article

Heartland Strong: How Rural New Zealand can Change and Thrive

This book, based on years of research, shows how, and provides useful insights into, the ongoing process of change in rural communities and the resources…
View Guidance

Pointing the way: Indicators for a better Aotearoa New Zealand

This report summarises the programme of work undertaken by the Indicators Working Group and offers a few high-level lessons. The key recommendation is that a…
View Summary

Method to Measure Rural Community Resilience

The Indicators Working Group (co-funded by AgResearch) produced a method to measure community resilience at a point in time using Statistics NZ data to indicate…
View Method

Six Criteria for Selecting Fit-for-Purpose Indicators

For OLW research, there are six criteria that are the most important for ensuring indicators are useful. Fit-for-purpose indicators are: accepted by stakeholders, valid, clearly…
View Guidance

Academic outputs He whakaputanga ngaio

Journal Article

Measuring rural community resilience: Case studies in NZ and Vermont, USA

Methods for assessing community resilience have focused predominantly on disaster recovery. There is a need for quantitative measurement tools for assessing community resilience to slow-moving…
View Journal Article
Technical Report

Assembling indicators of market access risks for food exports

The purpose of this research was to identify and test indicators of the level of consumer interest in specific market drivers. The drivers were previously…
View Technical Report
Journal Article

Testing indicators of resilience for rural communities

The resilience of rural communities is a concern, both in itself and for its effects on the agricultural sector. This article investigates the possibility of…
View Journal Article
Technical Report

Resilience indicators for rural New Zealand towns: Statistical analysis

The AgResearch Resilient Rural Communities (RRC) programme engaged PwC to conduct analysis of official statistics for rural areas of New Zealand. The analysis extended earlier…
View Technical Report
Technical Report

Indicators for the Future: Lessons from Next Generation Systems

The Indicators Working Group worked with Our Land and Water’s Next Generation Systems (NGS) researchers to prioritise and evaluate indicators. NGS involves researchers working with…
View Technical Report
Journal Article

Identifying resilience dimensions and thresholds: evidence from four rural communities in NZ

Community resilience is a critical determinant of how a community can cope with stressors and disturbances, but has proved difficult to conceptualise and measure. This…
View Journal Article

In the media Mai i te ao pāpaho

Radio New Zealand, 6 May 2019
Around 20 percent of New Zealanders live rurally, but the decisions made about them are predominantly decided by from urban people - so there is a lot of room for a disconnect between the countryside and the policy makers. The results have been published in the book, Heartland Strong - How rural New Zealand can change and thrive. Dr Brown and Dr Kaye-Blake speak with Kathryn Ryan.
Newshub, 24 April 2019
"One overlooked opportunity is the interest and capability of many rural people, who would like to be engaged and valued in making decisions about rural resilience that directly affect them."

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