Government decides better weather data access ‘not a priority’

The Government has decided not to change access to weather data in New Zealand, putting improved access into the ‘not a priority’ basket.

A spokesperson for Minister of Research, Science and Innovation Dr Megan Woods said that NIWA was “performing satisfactorily against the New Zealand open data principles, therefore no changes were necessary for its data-access provisions”.

This is despite a 2017 review of open-access weather data for MBIE found New Zealand had the most restrictive barriers out of the United States, Norway, Australia, the United Kingdom and France.

Stuff: Weather data remains restricted –  Government not stepping in to release more taxpayer-funded weather data

The Government has no intention of changing how New Zealand’s two taxpayer-funded forecasting agencies work in an effort to improve access to weather data.

Minister of Research, Science and Innovation Dr Megan Woods says changes have already been signalled by state-owned enterprise MetService to improve data access for competitors, meaning “its services will better align with New Zealand’s open data principles”.

Woods said the decision not to change Niwa and MetService’s operating models was made by her, Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Associate Minister of State-Owned Enterprises Shane Jones after discussions in September last year.

In a briefing, released to Stuff under the Official Information Act, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) proposed five options for improving access to data, ranging from the status quo to structural changes of both agencies.

MBIE recommended negotiating changes with both to minimise any possible loss of income from releasing what is largely taxpayer-funded data.

But other documents released showed Treasury did not want to pay for any solution and said MetService’s planned changes were enough, a recommendation that was adopted by the ministers.

MetService’s data changes already under way include:

– A new website with improved data support to be rolled out in the first half of this year.

– A new interface to make a wider range of free data, up to a certain level, publicly available.

– Provision of open oceanographic data.

WeatherWatch managing director Philip Duncan…

…said it was ironic, but unsurprising, that significant parts of the reports dealing with open access to data had been withheld.

“Taxpayers must fund both Niwa and MetService, then we cannot use the data we fund, and on top of that the Government redacts information about why.

“If both Niwa and MetService operate heavily commercially, and both say they are highly accurate, why would the Government need to give them even more money for apparent ‘lost revenue’ if they opened up data?”

National’s research, science and innovation spokeswoman, Dr Parmjeet Parmar​…

…said it was disappointing the Government had opted for “business as usual” after recent reviews.

“With this decision she is going to do nothing. After all this work, and now she has come back and stopped this halfway. In my view it has been a big waste of resources.”

Woods:

“The ministers decided changing the legislative and operating model was not a priority when [the] Government is tackling a number of other priorities”.

Labour has used “not a priority” as an excuse for not doing things they have previously indicated they might do (before they got into Government).

‘Not a priority’ – not actually a progressive government as claimed by Jacinda Ardern..