28 Sep 2022

Census to be held in March 2023 with extra $110m to ensure turnout

9:02 pm on 28 September 2022
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Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

The next census will be held in March next year, with extra measures aiming to ensure a high turnout after the 2018 edition fell short.

Stats NZ this afternoon announced the date of the national five-yearly survey, the census, would be 7 March 2023.

It would feature double the number of census workers, 44 percent of forms printed and delivered (as opposed to 3 percent in 2018), and would prioritise Māori and other groups and regions with lower response rates in 2018.

It will also have new requirements to collect data on sex, gender and sexual identity.

Minister of Statistics David Clark said doubling the number of census workers and increasing delivery of paper forms would "help to plug any gaps we experience from digital returns.

It was part of major work to ensure the census was delivered successfully after a low turnout in 2018, Clark said, which he blamed on the previous National government's decision to move to a mostly online approach, and cuts to costs over two census cycles.

"In particular the 2018 Census did not achieve a comprehensive population coverage for Māori and Pacific peoples."

National's leader in 2019 Simon Bridges had blamed then-Statistics Minister James Shaw over the debacle, saying he should have done more to ensure the census was on track and asked more questions of Stats NZ.

One in seven people did not complete the 2018 census, and some of the data was considered too incomplete to be regarded as official statistics and required revision by combining real census data with other government administrative data.

The government statistician who oversaw it, Liz MacPherson resigned the following year after a report by two independent reviewers found the project had not met expectations and led to an erosion of trust.

Clark said an extra $110 million was being invested for 2023, and would include a focus on initiatives to boost response rates fro groups that faced barriers.

Associate Minister of Statistics Meka Whaitiri said a new initiative called Te Mana Whakatipu led by the Data Iwi Leaders Group's Te Kāhui Raraunga would be piloted to also build iwi data and boost responses in two areas with historically lower rates.

"Census data is used to make decisions about the planning, funding and delivery of services that impact Māori, whānau, hapū and iwi," she said. "I encourage all iwi groups to participate and promote Census 2023 to ensure the Government can meet iwi data needs."

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