Stats NZ has a new website.

For new releases go to

As we transition to our new site, you'll still find some Stats NZ information here on this archive site.

  • Share this page to Facebook
  • Share this page to Twitter
  • Share this page to Google+
Glossary and references


Area unit

Area units are aggregations of meshblocks. They are non-administrative areas intermediate between meshblocks and territorial authorities. Area units must either define or aggregate to define urban areas, rural centres, statistical areas, territorial authorities and regional councils. Each area unit must be a single geographic entity with a unique name. Area units of main or secondary urban areas generally coincide with suburbs or parts thereof. Area units within urban areas normally contain 3,000–5,000 population.

Census night address

Census night address is the physical location of the dwelling where a respondent is located on census night. For passengers on overnight trains and buses, it is recommended that census night address is the destination of the passenger.


A dwelling is any building or structure, or part thereof, that is used (or intended to be used) for the purpose of human habitation. It can be of a permanent or temporary nature and includes structures such as motels, hotels, prisons, motor homes, huts, and tents. At the highest level, dwellings are classified as private or non-private.

A private dwelling accommodates a person or a group of people, but is not available to the public. A private dwelling may be permanent or temporary. Permanent private dwellings include houses and flats, residences attached to a business or institution; baches, cribs, and huts. Caravans, cabins, tents, and other makeshift dwellings that are the principal or usual residence of households are classified as temporary private dwellings.

All other dwellings are non-private and are available to the public. They may be available for use generally, or by virtue of occupation or study, special needs, or legal requirements. Such dwellings may have facilities (such as a dining room) that are for shared use.

Geographic Frame

The Geographic Frame contains an extensive street listing constantly updated by data received from territorial authorities, Electoral Enrolment Centre and Land Information New Zealand. The Geographic Frame enables an address to be geocoded to a unique meshblock. The Geographic Frame also contains other address related data such as commercial buildings, schools, hospitals etc, which may be used to geocode a location where the exact address is unknown.


The meshblock is the smallest geographic unit for which statistical data is collected and processed by Statistics New Zealand. A meshblock is a defined geographic area, varying in size from part of a city block to large areas of rural land. Each meshblock abuts against another to form a network covering all of New Zealand including coasts and inlets, and extending out to the two hundred mile economic zone. Meshblocks are added together to ‘build up’ larger geographic areas such as area units and urban areas. They are also the principal unit used to draw-up and define electoral district, territorial authority and regional council boundaries.

Regional council

The Local Government Commission established regional councils in 1989. These regional councils cover every territorial authority in New Zealand with the exception of the Chatham Islands District. The geographical boundaries of regions conform as far as possible to one or more water catchments. In determining regions, consideration was also given to regional communities of interest, natural resource management, land use planning, and environmental matters.

Territorial authority

Territorial authority boundaries are defined by aggregations of area units. When defining the boundaries of territorial authorities, the Local Government Commission placed considerable weight on the ‘community of interest’. While the size of the community was a factor, the relevance of the components of the community to each other and the capacity of the unit to service the community in an efficient manner, were the factors on which the Commission placed most emphasis.

Usual residence

Usual residence is the address of the dwelling where a person considers himself or herself to usually reside, except in the specific cases listed in the guidelines. See Standard for usual residence.


Department of Statistics (1992). New Zealand Standard Areas Classification Manual, Wellington.

United Nations (1998). Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses Revision 1, New York.

Further information

For further information on geographic classifications refer to the New Zealand Standard Areas Classification Manual (catalogue number 19.035.0092), or contact the Classifications and Standards Section.

  • Share this page to Facebook
  • Share this page to Twitter
  • Share this page to Google+
  • Share this page to Facebook
  • Share this page to Twitter
  • Share this page to Google+