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Getting ready for the 2018 Census

Every five years, Statistics New Zealand conducts the New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings to gather information about New Zealand’s population and households. The information is then used to make decisions about important things like schools, hospitals, roads, and everyday living requirements such as water supply. The next census will be in 2018 – a key feature of it will be encouraging a very high number of responses from people using online forms and technology. They will be able to complete their census without the need to interact with a Field Officer. To help Statistics NZ prepare for the census, a Census Test will be held on 22 March.

A sample of up to 22,000 households across the Auckland, Waikato, Wellington, and Christchurch regions, has been selected to help with the test. The households and regions were selected based on the test’s objectives and will give Statistics NZ a good idea about how people in New Zealand might respond to the changes in approach.

The information collected will be used by Statistics NZ to check that systems and technology platforms are accurate, easy to use, and able to process information efficiently.

“Census information is critical to the economic, social, and cultural make-up of New Zealand. The data collected is used to make decisions about important factors such as infrastructure planning, health and education funding, business, and resources in communities,” 2018 Census General Manager Denise McGregor said.

“We are changing to a modernised, digitally focused census model which will make it easier and faster for most people to fill in their forms. It will also make it more efficient to bring together the information gathered and make sense of the results.

“The purpose of the test is to understand how our new collection model will impact coverage and response rates. We also want to understand how to make it simple and easy to complete census forms online,” Mrs McGregor said.

After the test night, there will be follow-up activity for up to four weeks to remind and encourage households to return their forms. After that, some households will be asked about their experience of the Census Test and if they understood the instructions.


For more information about the Census Test, contact: Richard Stokes, Communications and Marketing Manager,, or phone 021 950167.
Authorised by Liz MacPherson, Government Statistician, 3 March 2016

About the census

The New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings is the official count of how many people and dwellings there are in New Zealand. It takes a snapshot of the people in New Zealand and the places where we live.

Information from the census helps determine how government funding is spent in the community. It is used to help make decisions about which services are needed and where they should be, such as hospitals, kōhanga reo, schools, roads, public transport, and recreational facilities. Census information is also used by councils, community groups, iwi, and businesses to plan for the future, and make decisions on issues that affect us all.

The census is currently held every five years, with the last census delayed until 2013 after the Christchurch earthquake in 2011.

Statistics NZ is modernising the census in 2018. A key feature is encouraging self-response using online forms. Completing the census form online will be secure, quick, and easy. Most people will be able to complete the forms themselves without the need for a visit from a census collector. Paper forms will still be available for those who prefer them.

In parallel with planning for the 2018 Census, the Census Transformation programme is investigating different ways of running the census. Its purpose is to investigate alternative ways of producing small-area population and socio-demographic statistics in the long term. This includes the possibility of changing the census frequency to every 10 years, and exploring the feasibility of a census based on administrative data.

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