Wednesday, 6 March 2019

More census woes

Continued census problems hit the Dom's front page today, and the other papers too, as we hit the one-year anniversary of the start of the 2018 census. 

Bryce Edwards has the roundup of all of them at the Herald
A number of newspaper stories have been published today about the anniversary of the 2018 census debacle. The most important is Thomas Manch's 365 days and still counting: Census 2018 results nowhere to be seen. In this, he explains that "The 2018 census data release has been delayed three times due to low response rate" and "Statistics New Zealand remains tight-lipped about when the long-delayed results will be available".


One specialist is cited as saying that although the 2018 census participation rate is estimated to be about 90 per cent for the general population, "the response rate of Māori may be as low as 80 or 70 per cent in some corners of New Zealand". In addition, "more than 20 new iwi won't be properly counted" in the census, and this is a problem because "census data was particularly important for smaller iwi trying to do good with fewer resources".


For a very in-depth and interesting account of the census debacle, see the Otago Daily Times feature story, And then there were nine, by Bruce Munro, which was published in the weekend. This is, so far, the ultimate exploration of what went wrong.

Kathy Connolly, Stats NZ's census general manager, answers questions put to her about whether the debacle was a result of the previous National Government running down the public service and replies "no comment". Was the debacle due to Stats NZ being asked to "Go do a cheap census"? Again: "No further comment".

There is also great debate in the article between Labour and National politicians about underfunding and oversight. They both blame each other, of course.

Munro also reports: "What exactly happened is hotly debated, but not loudly. Most of those close to the action will not talk on the record. At an operational level, when it came to rolling out New Zealand's first largely online census, several wheels fell off, they say. There wasn't enough publicity. Statistics New Zealand relied on the diminished postal system to get initial information to people. There were not enough forms. Fewer people were employed to follow up on those who had not filled out their form."
Brian Easton's suggestion of a 2021 Census looks reasonable if it's feasible.

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