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Serious questions after census shambles

Nick Smith - State Services

11 July 2018


Stats NZ’s admission that over 400,000 New Zealanders were not counted in this year’s census raises serious questions for the Government to answer, National’s spokesperson for State Services Nick Smith says.

“Census 2018 has turned into a shambles with the lowest participation rate in over fifty years. The Government must figure out what went so wrong and how the serious flow on problems for the public sector can be rectified,” Dr Smith says.

“The data for over 400,000 people is missing – that’s the equivalent of the population of Christchurch. This will compromise the quality of the statistics.

“Stats NZ yesterday delayed publication of the statistics from October 2018 to March 2019 so they can fill the hole using 2013 Census data and computer modelling. This is at a time of strong population growth and turns what would usually be reliable statistics into guesswork. Any assumptions about the make-up of the 400,000 will significantly distort the statistics.

“There is over $10 billion of health funding allocated to the twenty DHBs each year based on census population data. The funding formula for the operating grants for our 2500 schools is derived from the census as are decisions about the allocation of resources in social services, police, sports, transport and many other services.

“It also has major implications for the Representation Commission. The number of general and Maori electorates in Parliament are determined by the Census and the process for determining the new boundaries was due to start in November.

“Changes in population figures as small as 1 per cent can impact on whether there is, for instance, an extra or the removal of one of the Maori electorates. This process will now not be able to start until April next year and the compromised statistics will affect the integrity of the make-up and boundaries for the 2020 and 2023 elections.

“The Minister and Chief Statistician must accept responsibility for this debacle. They rejected serious concerns about the excessive reliance on online census returns, repeatedly reassuring the public of the census’s success.

“Reports that high need people including the elderly, those in rural communities and those with disabilities faced greater problems in participating in the 2018 Census are also particularly concerning.

“The public need answers on went wrong and what reliability the public sector will be able to place on the 2018 Census data given the size of the hole in the data and the door needs to be left open to bringing forward the 2023 census if it is found that the data is compromised.”

ends

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