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Making Sure Māori Count

A small Waikato town is pulling together to help improve how Māori are counted in the next census, Stats NZ said today.

In Raahui Pookeka, members of a local marae are driving an initiative to improve engagement in the New Zealand census.

The initiative, named Community Counts, is being run as part of the census test. If it’s successful, it could be rolled out to dozens of communities across New Zealand for the next census in 2023.

Ngaa reo o te hapori
Community Counts started by going to Waahi Paa to meet with ngaa poutiaki hapori (community leaders) and answer their questions about the value of census. Ngaa poutiaki hapori then took the lead on building awareness and understanding with the Raahui Pookeka hapori, supported by Stats NZ.

“It’s a whole new approach to census community engagement,” Regional Manager, Census Community Engagement for Central North, Hui Matatahi said.

“Instead of Stats NZ turning up once every five years, telling everyone to fill in their censuses, holding a few community events then leaving again, we’re now turning up and saying ‘tell us what you need to serve your community and tell us how we can help’.

“Maaori are the experts on our people and Stats NZ needs to support that.

“This census is for iwi, it’s for hapuu, it’s for marae and whaanau... it belongs to everyone.”

Improving outcomes for Māori
“At Stats NZ, we know the census didn’t deliver for Maaori in 2018,” Matatahi said, “and that as a result, Maaori haven’t had the information necessary to understand where our people are and how they’re doing and to advocate for the things we need.”

“If we’re not counted, our people miss out on funding for kura, ratonga hauora, services for our rangatahi and kaumaatua, and lots of other things we care about and need.”

General Manager for Census, Kathy Connolly, agrees.

“One of the things we need to keep front of mind is that many Māori don’t see the value in census for them. Because they don’t see the value, or don’t trust the system, they don’t participate and this means they don’t get counted,” Connolly said.

“We’ve learned from the experiences of 2018 and have made changes as a result. These changes are based on advice we received from external reviews and our own analysis of what worked and what didn’t. Now, we need to test them to make sure they work.”

About the census test
The test has two parts: one for Community Counts, and one investigating how changes made to the collection model used in 2018 works in a similar environment to a real census. Both tests are designed to check processes and strategies and capture any issues that come up while there is still time to make changes.

Households that are in scope for the test will have received postcards letting them know the test is coming and many will have already received packs with forms and instructions. Anyone who has received a postcard but not a visit, or who needs help, can call 0800 CENSUS (0800 236 787).

Notes for editors

  • We’ve taken the lead from Waikato Tainui on how to talk about their people and their places. That means we’ve chosen to use double vowels instead of macrons for people and places involved in the Community Counts test. This is in line with Te Taura Whiri guidance.
  • Spokespeople are available to give interviews in both English and te reo Māori.
  • COVID-19: Community Counts engagement is continuing while the Waikato is in alert level 2, with the Raahui Pookeka hapori adapting their approach to ensure that koroheke, ruuruhi, rangatahi, and tamariki are kept safe.

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