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Cosgrove: Address launching Census 2006

Tuesday, 31 January 2006

Hon. Clayton Cosgrove, Minister of Statistics,

Address launching Census 2006

Venue and time: 10am. Dorothy Winstone Centre, Auckland Girls’ Grammar, Howe St, Newton, Auckland

Government Statistician Brian Pink, all those involved in making the advertisements for the Census, members of the media, invited guests.

New Zealand is changing.

You only have to walk out this door and down the street to see the results of those changes.

New Zealand is a vibrant nation made up of a growing range of diverse communities. Here in Auckland, you can see the rise of apartment living and new household arrangements that are echoed up and down the country.

The cities and communities that make up the Auckland region are growing rapidly. Last year, Statistics New Zealand announced population projections that showed that the largest population city and district increases were dominated by Manukau, Auckland, the North Shore, Waitakere and Rodney District.

The age and ethnicity distributions in the South Island, for instance, in my electorate of Waimakariri, in Christchurch, are quite different from those in Auckland, Wellington or Gisborne.

For New Zealand’s population, the future is now. The trends we see today, the changes in birth rates, in migration, and in how people see themselves, are the New Zealand of tomorrow.

And we need to know, as a nation, what changes are occurring.

The Census of Population and Dwellings is the point every five years where we take a snapshot of the changes and the continuity within New Zealand.

And yes, over the years, since our first census in 1851, we have gathered some rather interesting information in among all that important data.

How much poultry households kept, and the rather unsurprising fact that chilly Otago had the smallest proportion of households with refrigerators in 1956, and indeed in the same year, that some seven percent of Canterbury and Otago households were self-sufficient in potatoes, as opposed to just one percent of you so-called sophisticated Aucklanders.

And one that I'm sure would make us all green with envy today: In 1945, a full third of the adult New Zealand population could travel from home to work in between one and five minutes!

But the reality is that we are collecting significant information. The census is a national stock-take where we begin to understand what the changes are and what they mean to our businesses, to our community groups and to local, regional and central government.

The reality is that every major decision made in New Zealand is based on statistics. More than ever, modern and developed nations run on data and the quality of the decisions made for the development of a nation are tied to the quality and accuracy of that data.

Every major infrastructure, business and community decision has some connection back to the census and social statistics.

The 2006 Census television advertisements we have just seen take this use of data to a more personal level, showing some of the ways ordinary New Zealanders benefit from Census data.

At the launch of the Census questionnaire in October last year, Mitre 10 talked about how their stores' locations, product range, marketing and special offers are based on census data.

A particular focus was on where home owners are concentrated in each area, what sort of homes they live in and what their average incomes are, as home owners with higher discretionary incomes spend more on building and home maintenance.

Statistics New Zealand has hundreds of requests every week asking for data:

- A Dunedin entertainer specialising in children's parties wanted to know which suburbs had the most children under 10, and it was census data that provided her with the answer.

- A Hamilton entrepreneur starting a catering business and cafe asked for the daytime population of different parts of the city before locating his kitchens.

- A Nelson gardening franchisee wanted to know where older people were concentrated in the city, as they were the largest section of their customer base.

Census statistics are the backbone of many business plans and this data, if more widely used, could really help our economy.

More generally, census data assists local councils to set roading priorities, make land use decisions, and tailor investments and services. The future of New Zealand infrastructure will always rest heavily on the information revealed in each census.

Hospitals, and all the related primary, secondary and tertiary health services are funded, based in part, on statistics obtained from the census.

Retirement planning and all of the public and private decisions around services for the elderly are based on census data.

These private and public decisions affect all of us.

Statistics New Zealand is employing 6500 census collectors, has printed more than four million forms, set up an internet form, contacted numerous community groups and developed a comprehensive communication and advertising programme. The television advertising starts tomorrow and runs until after the Census Day.

And there is one very simple message: New Zealanders benefit from the census.

So today I call on all New Zealanders to participate: Please fill in your forms accurately, and fill them in on time.

You can do it for New Zealand, you can do it for your business or the community organisation you support, or you can do it recognising that the way statistics are used affects you every day.

This is one time when all of us, whatever our beliefs or political persuasion, come together to be counted.

If you want to have your say in building our future, complete your census form.

I know that New Zealanders are, on the whole community-minded and will participate. That is one of the strengths of our country.

So it is with great pleasure that I launch the communication and advertising campaign for the 2006 Census.


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