New Zealand census

Forms that were intended for the (cancelled) 2011 Census. To the left, the forms for individual persons surveyed; to the right, a form for the overall household. The 2013 Census forms are identical, save for different dates.

The New Zealand government department Statistics New Zealand conducts a census of population and dwellings every five years. The census scheduled for 2011 was cancelled due to the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake,[1] and legislation was introduced to hold the next census in 2013.[2] The 2013 census took place on Tuesday, 5 March 2013.[3]

Census date

Since 1926, the census has always been held on a Tuesday.[4] Since 1966, the census officially occurs at midnight on a Tuesday in March.[4] These are statistically the month and weekday on which New Zealanders are least likely to be travelling.

Conducting the census

All census forms are hand-delivered by census workers during the lead-in to the census, with one form per person and a special form with questions about the dwelling. In addition, teams of census workers attempt to cover all hospitals, camp grounds, workplaces and transport systems where people might be found at midnight.

The smallest geographic unit used in the census for population data is the mesh block, which there are 39,300 of, with an average of 110 people in each.[5]

Data collected

The 2013 Census (and the cancelled 2011 Census) collected data on the following topics:[6]

Population structure
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Absentees
  • Number of occupants on census night
  • Marital/relationship status
  • Number of children born
  • Name (for data matching purposes only)
  • Census night address
  • Dwelling address
  • Usual residence
  • Usual residence five years ago
  • Years at usual residence
Culture and Identity
  • Ethnicity
  • Iwi affiliation
  • Māori descent
  • Birthplace
  • Language
  • Religious affiliation
  • Years since arrival in New Zealand
Education and training
  • Highest qualification
  • Post-school qualification
  • Highest secondary school qualification
  • Study participation
  • Status in employment
  • Work and labour force status
  • Hours worked in employment per week
  • Industry
  • Main means of travel to work
  • Sector of ownership
  • Unpaid activities
  • Occupation
  • Workplace address
  • Total personal income
  • Sources of personal income
Families and households
  • Family type
  • Extended families
  • Household composition
  • Access to telecommunication systems
  • Fuel types used to heat dwelling
  • Number of motor vehicles
  • Occupied dwelling type
  • Weekly rent paid by households
  • Sector of landlord
  • Tenure of household
  • Tenure holder
  • Number of rooms/ bedrooms
Health and disability
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Disability


The first full census in New Zealand was conducted in 1851, and the census was triennial until 1881, at which time it became five-yearly. The 1931 census was cancelled due to the effects of the Great Depression,[7] as was the 1941 census due to World War II.[8] The 1946 census was brought forward to Tuesday 25 September 1945, so that the results could be used for an electoral redistribution (the first for ten years) before the 1946 election.

1951 was the first year in which Māori and European New Zealanders were treated equally, with European New Zealanders having had a different census form in previous years and separate censuses in the nineteenth century. Results for those censuses before 1966 have been destroyed with a few exceptions and those since will not be available before 2066.[9]

The 2006 census was held on Tuesday, 7 March. For the first time, respondents had the option of completing their census form via the Internet rather than by a printed form.

The 2011 census was to be held on Tuesday, 8 March. However, due to the Christchurch earthquake on 22 February 2011, it was cancelled.[1] For the first time ever, all 2011 census forms would have been digitally archived.[10]

On 27 May 2011 Statistics New Zealand announced that a census would take place in March 2013.[11] The legislation required to change the census date was introduced to Parliament in August 2011.[12]

The 2013 census took place on Tuesday 5 March 2013. The next census will take place in 2018.

Evasion of the census

A few people object to the census and attempt to evade it. The most famous of these is the Wizard of New Zealand, Ian Brackenberry Channell, who has variously spent the night in a boat beyond New Zealand's 20 km territorial limit and presented affidavits from followers who believe that he 'magically disappeared' for the night.

Following the 2006 Census, Statistics New Zealand prosecuted 72 people for failing to return their forms, with 41 convictions. After the 2013 Census, they wrote to 450 people in July 2013 who had failed to return the forms, of whom 99 were prosecuted, resulting in 46 convictions. Most of those convicted faced two charges and were fined $50 to $500 per charge.[13]


Results of the 2013 census are being released over an 18-month period, beginning 15 October 2013.[14]


  1. 1 2 "Christchurch quake - census cancelled". 3 News. Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  2. "Census Bill introduced to Parliament" (Press release). New Zealand Government. 9 August 2011.
  3. "Census". Statistics New Zealand.
  4. 1 2 "Dates of New Zealand censuses since 1851". Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  5. Galbraith, Christian. "Project: Census Evaluation - 2001 Census Evaluation". Social Science Research Centre - University of Canterbury - New Zealand. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
  6. "2011 Census content report". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 25 July 2015.
  7. McRobie 1989, p. 91.
  8. McRobie 1989, p. 95.
  9. "New Zealand Genealogy". Retrieved Mar 8, 2015.
  10. "What happens to your census forms?" Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  11. "Census preparation underway". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  12. "Duties of Statutory Officers (Census and Other Remedial Provisions) Bill (2011)". New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  13. "Refusal to complete census results in 46 convictions". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  14. "2013 Census products and services release schedule". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 16 September 2013.


External links

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