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Algorithm charter for Aotearoa New Zealand

The Algorithm charter for Aotearoa New Zealand demonstrates a commitment to ensuring New Zealanders have confidence in how government agencies use algorithms. The charter is one of many ways that government demonstrates transparency and accountability in the use of data.

Algorithm charter - Te Reo Māori [PDF 202 KB]
Algorithm charter - English [PDF 220 KB]

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The Algorithm Charter for Aotearoa New Zealand is an initiative for the government’s data system. Current signatories to the charter are: 

  • Ara Poutama Aotearoa — Department of Corrections
  • Hīkina Whakatutuki — Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment
  • Institute of Environmental Science and Research Limited (ESR)
  • Manatū Aorere — Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • Manatū Hauora — Ministry of Health
  • Manatū Mō Te Taiao — Ministry for the Environment
  • Manatū Wāhine — Ministry for Women
  • Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission
  • Ngā Pirihimana o Aotearoa — New Zealand Police
  • Oranga Tamariki — Ministry for Children
  • Tatauranga Aotearoa — Stats NZ
  • Te Amorangi Mātauranga Matua — Tertiary Education Commission
  • Te Arawhiti — Office for Māori Crown Relations 
  • Te Kaporeihana Āwhina Hunga Whara — Accident Compensation Corporation
  • Te Kawa Mataaho — Public Service Commission
  • Te Manatū mō ngā Iwi ō te Moana-nui-ā-Kiwa — Ministry for Pacific Peoples
  • Te Manatū Whakahiato Ora — Ministry of Social Development
  • Te Manatū Waka — Ministry of Transport
  • Te Ope Kātua o Aotearoa — New Zealand Defence Force
  • Te Puni Kōkiri — Ministry of Māori Development
  • Te Tāhū o te Ture — Ministry of Justice
  • Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga — Ministry of Education
  • Te Tari Arotake Mātauranga — Education Review Office
  • Te Tari Taake — Inland Revenue Department
  • Te Tari Taiwhenua — Department of Internal Affairs
  • Te Tūāpapa Kura Kāinga — Ministry of Housing and Urban Development
  • Toi Hau Tāngata — Social Wellbeing Agency
  • Toitū Te Whenua — Land Information New Zealand
  • Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency

The value of algorithms

Government agencies use data to help inform, improve and deliver the services provided to people in New Zealand every day. Simple algorithms can be used to standardise business processes to ensure scarce resources are distributed equitably. More complex algorithms can be used to distil information from large or complex data sets to support human decision-making and reveal insights that could not easily be revealed by human analysis alone.

These algorithms can be used to help government better understand New Zealand and New Zealanders. This knowledge helps government make good decisions and deliver services that are more effective and efficient. The use of algorithms can mitigate the risk that human biases will enter into the administration of government services and result in real benefits for everyone.

However, the opportunities also bring fresh challenges. For example, human bias could be perpetuated, or even amplified by, algorithms that are not designed and operated in thoughtful ways. Transparency and accountability are critical to ensuring that the public can trust and support the government to use these tools in appropriate ways.

This charter is a commitment by government agencies to carefully manage how algorithms are used. With care, we can minimise unintended bias, better reflect the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and strike the right balance between making sure we access the power of the algorithms to ensure we deliver better services to New Zealanders whilst still maintaining the trust and confidence of New Zealanders in the use of those algorithms.


There are a wide range of advanced analytical tools that can fit under the term ‘algorithm’. These range from less advanced techniques such as regression models and decision trees, which primarily support predictions and streamline business processes, through to more complex systems, such as neural networks and Bayesian models, which can take on properties of machine learning as they make advanced calculations and predictions.

A good discussion of the different types of predictive algorithms and the challenges of defining these is contained in ‘Government Use of Artificial Intelligence in New Zealand’ (New Zealand Law Foundation and Otago University, 2019).

The risks and benefits associated with algorithms are largely unrelated to the types of algorithms being used. Very simple algorithms could result in just as much benefit (or harm) as the most complex algorithms depending on the content, focus and intended recipients of the business processes at hand. As a consequence, this Charter does not specify a technical definition of an algorithm. It instead commits signatories to take a particular focus on those algorithms that have a high risk of unintended consequences and/or have a significant impact if things do go wrong, particularly for vulnerable communities.


The Algorithm Charter for Aotearoa New Zealand is an evolving piece of work that needs to respond to emerging technologies and also be fit-for-purpose for government agencies. In July 2020, the Charter was released to increase public confidence and visibility around the use of algorithms within the public sector. It was agreed that the Charter would be reviewed after 12-months to ensure it is achieving its intended purpose – improving government transparency and accountability without stifling innovation or causing undue compliance burden.

An independent review of the Charter - which involved interviewing signatories, non-signatories, and subject matter experts - was completed by Taylor Fry in December 2021. Stats NZ is now commencing work to consider and implement the findings of the review.

Algorithm charter review - English [PDF 605 KB]


The Algorithm Charter is part of a wider ecosystem and works together with existing tools, networks and research, including:

  • Principles for the Safe and Effective Use of Data and Analytics (Privacy Commissioner and Government Chief Data Steward, 2018)
  • Government Use of Artificial Intelligence in New Zealand (New Zealand Law Foundation and Otago University, 2019)
  • Trustworthy AI in Aotearoa – AI Principles (AI Forum New Zealand, 2020)
  • Open Government Partnership, an international agreement to increase transparency.
  • Data Protection and Use Policy (Social Wellbeing Agency, 2020)
  • Privacy, Human Rights and Ethics Framework (Ministry of Social Development).

Principles for the safe and effective use of data and analytics
Government use of artificial intelligence in New Zealand [PDF 1.3 MB]
Trustworthy AI in Aotearoa - AI principles
Open government partnership
Data protection and use policy
Privacy, human rights, and ethics framework [PDF 258 KB]

Assessing likelihood and impact

The Algorithm Assessment Report found that advanced analytics and data use are an essential part of delivering public services. Applying the Charter to every business rule and process would be impossible for agencies to comply with and not achieve the intended benefits of the Charter.

However, where algorithms are being employed by government agencies in a way that can significantly impact on the wellbeing of people, or there is a high likelihood many people will suffer an unintended adverse impact, it is appropriate to apply the Charter.

Charter signatories will make an assessment of their algorithm decisions using the risk matrix below. This supports their evaluation, by quantifying the likelihood of an unintended adverse outcome against its relative level of impact to derive an overall level of risk.

The risk rating determines the application of the Charter.

The risk matrix featured in the Algorithm charter

Application and commitment

The Charter will apply differently to each signatory. The risk matrix approach means that signatories can focus first on decisions that have a high risk and exclude most of the many business rules that government agencies use every day to give effect to legislative requirements and for business as usual activities.

The intention is to focus on those uses of algorithms that have a high or critical risk of unintended harms for New Zealanders. This commitment will be reviewed in twelve months as part of the scope review (as of July 2020).

It is important to note that the charter cannot fully address all of the important considerations related to data ethics, such as Māori data sovereignty, as these are complex and require separate consideration.

Algorithm charter for Aotearoa New Zealand

The algorithm charter demonstrates a commitment to ensuring New Zealanders have confidence in how government agencies use algorithms. This charter is one of many ways that government is demonstrating transparency and accountability in the use of data. However, it cannot fully address important considerations, such as Māori Data Sovereignty, as these are complex and require separate consideration.


Our organisation understands that decisions made using algorithms impact people in New Zealand. We commit to making an assessment of the impact of decisions informed by our algorithms. We further commit to applying the Algorithm Charter commitments as guided by the identified risk rating.

Algorithm Charter Commitments:

Transparency - maintain transparency by clearly explaining how decisions are informed by algorithms.

This may include:

  • plain English documentation of the algorithm
  • making information about the data and processes available (unless a lawful restriction prevents this)
  • publishing information about how data are collected, secured and stored.

Partnership - Deliver clear public benefit through Treaty commitments by:

  • embedding a Te Ao Māori perspective in the development and use of algorithms consistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

People - Focus on people by:

  • identifying and actively engaging with people, communities and groups who have an interest in algorithms, and consulting with those impacted by their use.

Data - Make sure data is fit for purpose by:

  • understanding its limitations
  • identifying and managing bias.

Privacy, ethics, and human rights - Ensure that privacy, ethics and human rights are safeguarded by:

  • regularly peer reviewing algorithms to assess for unintended consequences and act on this information.

Human oversight - Retain human oversight by:

  • nominating a point of contact for public inquiries about algorithms
  • providing a channel for challenging or appealing of decisions informed by algorithms
  • clearly explaining the role of humans in decisions informed by algorithms.

Key documents

These documents provide more information on the process used to produce the Algorithm Charter for Aotearoa New Zealand.

Commissioning the work – Report: Responding to the Algorithm Assessment Report
Developing the Charter – Report: Responding to feedback on the Algorithm Charter
Developing the Charter – Report: An Algorithm Charter for Aotearoa New Zealand
Developing the Charter – Aide Memoire: Feedback from agencies on the Algorithm Charter
Finalising the work – Report: Releasing the Algorithm Charter

In preparing this information release, Stats NZ considered the Official Information Act.

Official Information Act 1982

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Content last reviewed 15 June 2023.