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Using the Data Lab

Find out what microdata is available through the Data Lab about people, households, and businesses, and how to apply to access it for your research project.

About the Data Lab

New Zealand-based researchers can apply to access microdata for bona fide research or analytical purposes that are in the public interest. The Data Lab service is available at Stat NZ offices and at secure research facilities around New Zealand.

See Microdata research for a list of current and past research projects.

Available microdata

Through the Data Lab, researchers can access the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI),  the Longitudinal Business Database (LBD), and other Stats NZ surveys.

See Microdata available in the Data Lab.

Application process

If you have a new project or want to make changes to an existing project, you have to go through an application process. Figure 1 shows the five steps in the process, and approximately how long each step takes. Each step is explained in more detail below.

Figure 1

Data Lab application process

Data Lab application process

Step 1 – Pre-application discussion

We strongly recommend you discuss your proposed project with us first before submitting an application. We will give you helpful advice and information specific to your proposed project, including: 

  • feasibility of your research
  • what data is most relevant to your proposal
  • experts you could talk to
  • likely concerns to address in your application.

Please phone us to arrange a pre-application meeting: (04) 931 4253 or email us at 

Note: Researchers using the Data Lab need quantitative research skills and the ability to query large datasets based on their parameters of interest. If you intend to use the IDI or LBD, we strongly recommend having intermediate SQL coding skills. Most researchers code in SAS or SQL, while others prefer coding in R or Stata.

Consider the issues outlined in figure 2 when you prepare your Data Lab application.

Figure 2

Issues to be aware of when preparing your Data Lab application

Issues to be aware of when preparing Data Lab application

Description of figure 2
Go – You need to meet these criteria before microdata access can be considered: research is for a statistical purpose, research is for the public good, research will be conducted by a credible team, suitable data is available, Stats NZ can enforce an agreement.
Check – You need to talk to us to check these issues for potential problems: research is for commercial gain, unrecognised research institution, data integration is required, researchers are based overseas, quality of data is not adequate for research purpose, lead researcher is a student or junior staff member, research is for service provider evaluation, non-government researchers requesting access to business tax data.
Stop – You need to resolve these issues before microdata access can be considered: research is about named people or businesses, research is for a regulatory purpose, researchers do not have organisational support, research will not be released, complex legislative issues affect access.

Back to application process

Step 2 – Submit application

New project

Fill in the form ‘Application to access microdata in the Stats NZ Data Lab' (see ‘Available files’ box on the right-hand side of this page) if you want to apply for a new microdata project. The form includes questions about:

  • you and your organisation
  • your proposed project
  • what software you require
  • what datasets you need to access.

Variation to an existing project

Fill in the form ‘Application to vary an existing microdata project in the Stats NZ Data Lab’ (see ‘Available files’ box) if you would like to apply for a variation to an existing microdata access agreement. This is relevant when: 

  • adding a new researcher to your project
  • adding a new research question
  • requesting access to a new dataset
  • requesting additional software
  • requesting a time extension.

Please email your completed application form to:  
Remember to attach CVs and ethics approval (where applicable).

Back to application process 

Steps 3 and 4 – Approval of application


It usually takes us 15 working days to assess submitted applications for a new project and 10 working days to assess variation requests. We will contact you if we have any questions during this time, so please make sure you are available.

We will assess your application against our microdata access protocols. Researchers are vetted for trust and capability, and we check that your project is for bona fide research or analytical purposes that are in the public interest.

Initial approval

Your application will initially be approved by our subject matter, legal, and methodology teams. This step usually takes seven working days.

Some of our data supply partners ask to see new applications to use their data. They are able to provide information and advice about using their data, including caveats that could affect the proposed project.

Your nominated referees will also be contacted during this period.

Final approval

Final approval for new projects and project variations rests with the Government Statistician or delegated authorised person. This step usually takes seven working days.

Back to application process

Step 5 – Setup and support

Once your project has been approved, we will work with you to prepare for your arrival in the Data Lab. This step usually takes seven working days. Setup includes:

  • signing a contract and forms including a declaration of secrecy
  • confidentiality training for new researchers
  • building a user profile and setting up accesses and project space
  • setting up login details and access cards (where applicable)
  • providing useful resources to get you started on your first day.

Back to application process

Data Lab locations

You can only access microdata in a secure Data Lab environment. Within this environment you can run code, create datasets, store material and share this with other researchers working on your project, and access additional metadata. Computers in the Data Lab cannot access the internet or connect to printers.

User support is available Monday–Friday from 8.30am–5pm.

Phone (04) 931 4253 or email us at  

Stats NZ offices

The Data Lab service is available Monday–Friday from 8.30am–5pm at the following Statistics NZ offices: 

Auckland: NZ Mint Building, 48 Greys Avenue, Auckland

Wellington: HP House, 8 Gilmer Terrace, Wellington

Christchurch: BNZ Centre, Level 1, 120 Hereford Street, Christchurch

Secure research facilities

You can apply to have a secure link to the Data Lab server within your own workplace. If approved, we will provide you with the same software and data available at Stats NZ offices. Remote facilities will be considered for projects that have been active for a period of more than six months, and have a good track record for confidentiality and security.

You must meet rigorous criteria on feasibility, security, and monitoring. For example, a Data Lab cannot be set up in a public place or private residence.

Fill in the form ‘Application to request the setup of a new secure research facility (remote Data Lab)’ (see ‘Available files’ box) if you would like to request the setup of a new remote Data Lab at your organisation for the purpose of accessing Stats NZ microdata.

Please email your completed application form to:  

International Data Labs

Stats NZ has approved the first international Data Lab to give researchers greater access to the data it holds. The Sydney-based lab opened at the premises of Ernst & Young on 16 August 2017. Analysts from Ernst & Young are using Stats NZ’s IDI for a project they are doing with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and the Ministry for Vulnerable Children (Oranga Tamariki). Security arrangements at the Sydney Data Lab are the same as those for Data Labs in New Zealand.

The Sydney Data Lab is a test case for international Data Labs.

See International Data Lab approved in Sydney for more information about the Sydney Data Lab.


Data lab costs

The Data Lab operates on a cost-recovery basis. Here are the current costs (excluding GST) for the following services:

  • assessment and approval of application – $500 (no charge for unsuccessful applications)
  • dataset creation (where a standard dataset is not available) – $115 per hour
  • purchase/licence for custom software – actual cost
  • output confidentiality checking –  $115 per hour per project (first 15 hours free).


Releasing output

We check all output that you want to release from the Data Lab to ensure you have applied the confidentiality rules correctly. The checking process has two phases. 

See Microdata output guide for the methods and rules researchers must use for confidentialising output produced from Stats NZ’s microdata. Refer to this guide for:

  • an explanation of phase 1 and phase 2 output checks (section 6)
  • the specific rules that apply to different types of output (section 3)
  • instructions on how to get your output released (section 8).

Access to microdata is governed by the Statistics Act 1975. This means Stats NZ is legally required to protect confidential personal and business information.

Provide feedback or make a complaint

Make a complaint or a suggestion, or give us a compliment.

Updated 28 August 2017

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