NICOLE MATHEWSON reports in The Press (4 January 2013):
A proposal to shift to a 10-year census could seriously affect Christchurch’s recovery, critics say.
Statistics Minister Maurice Williamson said in July 2011 the Government was considering holding the census once every decade.
Currently conducted every five years, the census helps determine electoral boundaries and funding for services like district health boards, schools and the police.
I agree with our Earthquake Recovery spokeswoman Lianne Dalziel: http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/8141560/Missing-Census-data-may-hurt-city
“Christchurch was already living with the consequences of a delayed census …I’d really want to see a good case put up for a delay. We’ve had the schools shake-up landed on the city without the benefit of knowledge about where the settlement patterns are going to fall and that’s wrong.”
Green’s Eugenie Sage cited as an example that one of the reasons for not closing Belfast’s Ouruhia School is potential roll growth from the Prestons and Belfast subdivisions. “Five-yearly census information will help confirm that.”
Labour statistics spokesman Raymond Huo said a 10-yearly census would reduce costs to Statistics New Zealand, but it was “not that straightforward”.
“I think Williamson’s idea is half-baked at best because it’s not that simple,” he said.
“The key drivers are cost constraints and the demand for more frequent detailed and accurate statistics. Particularly for the Christchurch area, we need more frequent and accurate data.”
Indeed. There are at least three issues as Statistics NZ noted:
- Continuing cost increases (due to population growth and inflation);
- Not keeping pace with potential cost savings arising from technological changes;
- Increasing availability of administrative date.
NZ could learn a lot from international experience. Australia has developed its eCensus system and one of the goals for its 2016 census is to further increase internet uptake. At its 2011 census 34% of households completed forms online, already.
Canada is researching methodology options (based on existing administrative registers plus a full-enumeration field census with yearly updates).
France’s approach is unique: a full-enumeration of population and dwelling every five years plus 8% sample conducted every year in large municipalities. Date are released annually as moving averages.
US also changed census model. In 2010, its 10-yearly long-form census was replaced by ACS – a large annual survey of 3 million households.
Statistics NZ in its Transforming the New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings: Issues, options, and strategy gave a detailed analysis of each option/approach.
Statistics Minister Maurice Williamson could simply read it and talk to his officials. His approach has so far been hands-off and his idea, half-baked.