Census frequency

Stuff reports:

A proposal to shift to a 10-year could seriously affect Christchurch’s recovery, critics say.

Statistics Minister Maurice Williamson said in July 2011 the Government was considering holding the census once every decade.

Currently conducted every five years, the census helps determine electoral boundaries and funding for services like district health boards, schools and the police.

I’m not sure how a comment made 18 months ago is a news story today, unless there has been some more recent development.

Labour earthquake recovery spokeswoman Lianne Dalziel said Christchurch was already living with the consequences of a delayed census.

“I’m not criticising the delay that we’ve had because obviously it was done for the right reasons. We would have got a very distorted view if it had gone ahead in 2011.”

However, delaying the census by two years did cause problems, particularly for this year’s local body elections, she said.

“The election will be based on boundaries that aren’t where people are living. I think that’s going to be a bit of a shake-up,” she said.

“I’d really want to see a good case put up for a delay. We’ve had the schools shake-up landed on the city without the benefit of knowledge about where the settlement patterns are going to fall and that’s wrong.”

Labour statistics spokesman Raymond Huo said a 10-yearly census would reduce costs to Statistics New Zealand, but it was “not that straightforward”.

“I think [Williamson’s] idea is half-baked at best because it’s not that simple,” he said.

“The key drivers are cost constraints and the demand for more frequent detailed and accurate statistics. Particularly for the Christchurch area, we need more frequent and accurate data.”

I agree with Dalziel and Huo that a move from five to 10 years is not desirable. I’m a bit biased as I am a frequent and large user of census data, but I think it would impact many areas of activity.

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