Every 5 years, New Zealand has a census. It is a compulsory survey of New Zealanders socio-economic status.
In 2011 the Census was delayed two years because of the Christchurch earthquakes, which meant that roughly 1/4 of the city had temporarily evacuated. The level of disruption, the likelihood of not being able to locate a large number of residents and the difficulty distributing and collecting the paperwork meant that it was not feasible. The delayed Census was held in 2013.
By law all people in New Zealand must do the census. Government socio-economic planning relies on the data set gathered on this night. It enables provision to be made for medical, educational and social welfare issues and resource distribution among other things.
Researchers will find a number of concerning aspects in Census 2018:
- Not all people in New Zealand on the night will be able to do it – some will be living in cars, or in garages or sleep outs at their families place
- Not all will have access to a computer or know how to use a computer – these will mainly be elderly people who have probably not had one in their lives; people from very poor socio-economic backgrounds might not have access to a computer or know people who can give them access to a computer
- People living in New Zealand who have arrived illegally will not want to risk their cover being blown for fear of deportation, and thus might make themselves unavailable to complete the Census
- Asylum seekers and refugees, unless they have had support from their local ethnic community or community groups might not have the means or know how to participate
Because some of these people are transient it is anyone’s guess where they will be on the night of the Census. A few like the former Wizard of Christchurch, otherwise known as Ian Brackenbury Chanell believe that the Census is wrong and there is no need for it – Mr Brackenbury Chanell, in a prior Census, went to sea to avoid having to do it.
An example of how the Census might exacerbate existing problems can be found in Manukau. This is where a large number of people were not counted in the 2013 Census and subsequently the funding allocation to the local District Health Board has been tens of millions short of what was needed. Given the population growth in Manukau, the increasing number of homeless people and its ethnically diverse population this is a problem with significant potential to worsen.
So I wait to see how Census 2018 turns out. Will it be a well organized exercise or will it show a socially exacerbated, disconnected New Zealand with growing cracks in the floor of the social welfare state?