Statistics New Zealand is proposing to axe more than 100 jobs in Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland.
Chief executive and government statistician Liz MacPherson said the department started talking to staff this week about a review of the corporate functions of the organisation.
It was the final phase of a plan called the Re-Group Project, she said. The proposal included cutting 103 positions, and the creation of 50 new roles, for a net loss of 53 jobs.
Affected areas included administration, finance, human resources, information management, information technology, business analysis and marketing and communications.
"The proposal announced to staff is just that, a proposal. I have encouraged staff to test it hard and I look forward to hearing their feedback.
"A final decision on the shape of our corporate function will be made in mid-May," MacPherson said.
"This review is essential if we are to operate in a way that provides a strong customer-focused approach, ensures we can increase capability, and gives us the most effective and sustainable structure to support the organisation to deliver information to our customers."
The staff consultation period will end on April 17.
Statistics NZ has about 1000 staff based in offices in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
The proposed cuts come after 13 management positions were cut in March after a leadership review.
Public Service Association national secretary Richard Wagstaff said the proposal came as Statistics NZ tried to "live within its means".
The union would be working with affected staff and hoped many would find jobs within Statistics NZ or in the wider public service.
The public service was facing the reality of tight budgets with many staff uncertain about their future, he said. "Several chief executives across the wider state sector know the future is not looking any brighter."
Labour's spokesman for statistics, Raymond Huo, said the proposed cuts were "short-sighted and dangerous".
"This will impact on the way we collect data," he said.
A spokesman for Statistics Minister Maurice Williamson said the minister was briefed on the proposed cuts.
Williamson did not believe they would affect the ability of Statistics NZ to do its job.
- The Dominion Post