Mayor dubious about census response rate

Gary Kircher
Gary Kircher
Despite Stats NZ trumpeting the success of this year's online census, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher is asking for an extension for the cut-off date for completed forms.

And although Stats NZ has said response rates in the Waitaki were high, Mr Kircher was not buying it.

At the end of March 2018, Census general manager Denise McGregor said she expected "at least a 70% online response" and combined with paper responses "the total response rate is anticipated to be well above 90% and on a par with previous censuses".

Earlier this month, Mrs McGregor said "because we are still collecting and processing responses, we are unable to release response rates, but the Waitaki district response rate is tracking well, and is one of the highest responding districts in the country".

Mr Kircher said the Waitaki district had a higher-than-average older population and a good number of rural immigrant communities, and without accurate information health funding was at risk.

"First of all, why are they doing a census if they already know the numbers?" Mr Kircher said.

"And I think communities like ours do run the risk of having their populations under-counted."

The 2013 census found 471 people of 20,826 in the Waitaki district identified themselves as Pasifika, but members of the Pasifika community in the district have called that number "incredibly low".

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) advocacy deputy chief executive Helen Mexted said LGNZ's rural and provincial council sector members had expressed concern about people taking up the census online "given socio-economic and connection issues".

"So in other words, it's around different demographics ... and their potential internet usage in parts of New Zealand with possible resulting impacts on data accuracy."

After a March rural and provincial meeting, LGNZ wrote to the Government to express reservations.

The organisation was assured the online approach would not compromise the quality of data.

LGNZ was working with Stats NZ, she said, and both shared the objective of a full and thorough count.

Follow-up work continued throughout New Zealand with households that had not yet taken part in the census, Mrs McGregor said.

"This is a normal part of every census operation. For most parts of New Zealand, including the South Island, we will complete our field visits by April 22. In some areas of Auckland and Northland we will extend collection for a further week, until April 29," she said.

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