Making sense of the Census: Your questions answered

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 6 March 2018, 12:22PM

As Census day gets under way there are increasing reports of people having trouble with their online forms sparking fears various segments of New Zealand society may be under-represented.

Today is Census Day, the day the Government attempts to count every person in the country and asks a range of questions to give a snapshot of the country's population and general needs.

As of this morning more than 1,200,000 people have filled in their Census forms online, and all of those yet to do so are being encouraged to get it done today.

General manager of the 2018 Census Denise McGregor,said leeway would be given to those unable to fill out the form by today and it only prosecuted people who refused to fill the form out after Census staff had carried out a number of tasks to get them to do so.

Statistics NZ wanted 70 per cent of all Census forms filled in online, with access codes sent out to all New Zealand households, but anyone could ask for a paper form instead.

But the move to online has perplexed many, particularly elderly folk, concerned they do not have computers or access to one to complete the form.

An Auckland man was concerned a 93-year old friend of his in a retirement village was going to miss out.

"He said he had received no Census form and his inquiries to staff had got him nowhere.

"He is of sound mind but has never had a computer.

"I suspect this will be a similar story in many retirement villages and if so it will result in a very poor return of information from an important and numerous segment of our society."

SeniorNet and Statistics NZ have teamed up to provide places where people could get help to fill out their forms online.

Until Friday, March 9, volunteers will be at SeniorNet learning centres around the country to help people aged over 50 fill out the 2018 Census online.

SeniorNet national spokesman Grant Sidaway said they were running over 200 workshops nationally to help seniors complete the census.

In Whangarei by 2pm yesterday 40 people had been helped at Whangarei SeniorNet.

Volunteer Jean Hansen said they had also had plenty of inquiries from others finding it hard to fill the forms out online.

"Also a lot of people haven't got their forms with their Census access code yet to fill it out online. Many assume that we have the paper forms for them to fill out but we don't," she said.

National MPs have criticised members of the Government for not being in the country today.

"It is deeply ironic that the minister, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister are all overseas this evening, and won't be counted in this important snapshot of our society," National MP Scott Simpson said.

"There are real concerns around New Zealanders not receiving their code letters, some are struggling with online access and many are reporting a lack of response to queries and calls for help."

National's disabilities spokeswoman Nicky Wagner said reports Kiwis with disabilities were struggling to complete this year's Census online were "extremely disappointing".

"Not only does it exclude them from the opportunity to take part, but it's likely the results will be skewed because so many people from this sector of society won't be represented."

A Census spokesman said this year the plan was to encourage as many people as possible to take part online, and to provide a paper on request option for those who preferred it.

This means that after Census day, the Statistics NZ team could concentrate on making sure everyone else had what they needed to complete their forms.

The online system would remain open for anyone who wasn't able to take part on or before today and paper forms would continue to be available upon request.

After today, any household which is yet to complete their forms will be contacted again by letter.

Households which haven't completed their forms after these reminders will be visited by field teams.

After Statistics NZ has sent out reminders, its field teams will start following up from mid-March with households which haven't taken part.

To complete your Census you will need:

• Your access code letter

• Around 20 minutes to complete the Census, individual forms take about eight minutes.

• Everyone in your household to take part

What is the importance of the Census?

Census information will help determine how billions of dollars of Government spending is spent, it also can be used to inform decisions and make plans about services.

This can help identify where hospitals, schools, roads and public transport is needed.

Is the Census compulsory and can I get fined if I don't complete it?

Yes. The Statistics Act 1975 requires everyone in New Zealand on Census day to take part, that includes tourists.

After Census day, any household who is yet to complete their Census forms will be contacted again by letter. Households which haven't completed their forms after these reminders will be visited by our field teams. If people still refuse to take part after these visits, then Stats NZ may consider prosecution.

Is anything new with this Census?

Stats NZ was asking everyone who had their access code letter and was able to take part online to do so.

Stats NZ was also asking new questions about mould and damp in your home, and have introduced a new set of disability questions.

What happens if I want to take part by paper/ hard copy?

Paper forms are available upon request. If you have your access code letter, you can call our helpline on 0800 CENSUS (0800 236 787) and they'll send out paper to you.

What happens if you've lost your access code?

If you've lost your code, a new one will soon be on its way to any household who hasn't responded by midnight on March 6.

What happens if I am not at home?

Places like hospitals, residential homes, hotels and motels are treated a little differently from households. We deliver everything they need, including paper forms, closer to Census day, so that they can use them to count the people actually staying with them on Census night.

Are people yet to receive their Census?

The majority of the population have received their forms.

How long does it take to do?

2018 Census general manager Denise McGregor said "It doesn't take long to complete and timing for online forms is averaging four minutes for the dwelling form and eight minutes for the individual form,"

For more information on how to fill out your Census form click here.

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